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The  Canterbury  Tales. 
Geoffrey  Chaucer. 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


About  the  author 

Geoffrey  Chaucer  (ca.l343- 
1400)  was  an  English  author,  philoso- 
pher, diplomat,  and  poet,  and  is  best 
known  and  remembered  as  the  au- 
thor of  The  Canterbury  Tales.  He  is 
sometimes  credited  with  being  the 
first  author  to  demonstrate  the  artistic 
legitimacy  of  the  English  language. 


GGOTirUE^'    CUAUCEH. 


He  was  a  contemporary  of  Giovanni  Boccaccio  and  Christine  de 
Pizan.  Although  born  as  a  son  of  a  vintner,  he  became  a  page  at  the 
court  of  Edward  III  of  England.  He  was  in  the  service  of  first  Eliza- 
beth de  Burgh,  Countess  of  Ulster,  and  then  Lionel  of  Antwerp,  son  of 
Edward  III.  He  traveled  from  England  to  France,  Spain,  Flanders,  and 
Italy  (Genoa  and  Florence),  where  he  came  into  contact  with  medieval 
continental  poetry. 

Geoffrey  Chaucer 

Chaucer  married,  ca.  1366,  Philippa  (de)  Roet,  a  lady-in-waiting  to 
Edward  Ill's  queen,  Philippa  of  Hainault  and  a  sister  of  Katherine 
Swynford,  who  later  (ca.  1396)  became  the  third  wife  of  Chaucer's 
friend  and  patron,  John  of  Gaunt. 


Chaucer  wrote  poetry  as  a  diversion  from  his  job  as  Comptroller  of 
the  Customs  for  the  port  of  London,  and  also  translated  such  impor- 
tant works  as  The  Romance  of  the  Rose,  written  in  French  by  Guillaume 
de  Lorris  and  enlarged  years  later  by  Jean  de  Meun,  and  Anicius 


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Manlius  Severinus  Boethius'  De  consolatione  philosophiae.  He  also 
wrote  the  Parlement  of  Foules  and  the  House  of  Fame.  However,  he's 
best  known  as  the  writer  of  Troilus  and  Criseyde  and  of  The  Canter- 
bury Tales,  a  collection  of  stories  (told  by  fictional  pilgrims  on  the  road 
to  the  cathedral  at  Canterbury)  that  would  help  to  shape  English 
literature. 

Chaucer's  Chanticleer  and  the  Fox  was  based  on  a  story  by  Marie 
de  France. The  image  shows  an  outdoor  production  of  the  tale  at  Ashby- 
de-la-Zouch  castle. 

In  the  history  of  English  literature,  he  is  considered  the  introducer 
of  continental  accentual- syllabic  metre  as  an  alternative  to  the  allitera- 
tive Anglo-Saxon  metre.  He  also  helped  to  standardise  the  southern 
accent  (London  area)  of  the  Middle  English  language. 


Chaucer  died  on  October  25, 1400.  He  is  buried  at  Westminster 
Abbey  in  London,  and  was  the  first  tenant  of  the  Poets'  Corner. 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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Contents 


Prologue. 

The  Knight's  Tale. 

The  Miller's  Tale. 

The  Reeve's  Tale. 

The  Cook's  Tale. 

The  Man  of  Law's  Tale. 

The  Wife  of  Bath's  Tale. 

The  Friar's  Tale. 

The  Sompnour'sTale. 

The  Clerk's  Tale. 

The  Merchant  Tale. 

The  Squire's  Tale. 

The  Franklin's  Tale. 

The  Doctor's  Tale. 

The  Pardoner's  Tale. 

The  Shipman'sTale. 

The  Prioress's  Tale. 

Chaucer's  Tale  of  SirThopas. 

Chaucer's  Tale  of  Miliboeus. 

The  Monk's  Tale. 

The  Nun's  Priest  Tale. 

The  Second  Nun's  Tale. 

The  Canon  Yeoman's  Tale. 

The  Manciple's  Tale. 

The  Parson's  Tale. 

Preces  de  Chaucer. 

Notes. 


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WHEN  that  Aprihs,  with  his  showers  swoot*,  *sweet 

The  drought  of  March  hath  pierced  to  the  root, 

And  bathed  every  vein  in  such  licour, 

Of  which  virtue  engender 'd  is  the  flower; 

When  Zephyrus  eke  with  his  swoote  breath 

Inspired  hath  in  every  holt*  and  heath 

The  tender  croppes*  and  the  younge  sun 

Hath  in  the  Ram  <  1  >  his  halfe  course  y-run, 

And  smalle  fowles  make  melody, 

That  sleepen  all  the  night  with  open  eye, 

(So  pricketh  them  nature  in  their  corages*); 

Then  longe  folk  to  go  on  pilgrimages. 

And  palmers  <2>  for  to  seeke  strange  strands. 

To  *ferne  hallows  couth*  in  sundry  lands;     *distant  saints  known*<3 

And  specially,  from  every  shire  s  end 

Of  Engleland,  to  Canterbury  they  wend. 

The  holy  blissful  Martyr  for  to  seek. 

That  them  hath  holpen*,  when  that  they  were  sick.  *helped 


*grove,  forest 
*twigs,  boughs 


*hearts,  incUnations 


Befell  that,  in  that  season  on  a  day. 
In  Southwark  at  the  Tabard  <4>  as  I  lay. 
Ready  to  wenden  on  my  pilgrimage 
To  Canterbury  with  devout  corage. 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


At  night  was  come  into  that  hostelry 

Well  nine  and  twenty  in  a  company 

Of  sundry  folk,  *by  aventure  y-fall  *who  had  by  chance  fallen 

In  fellowship*,  and  pilgrims  were  they  all,  into  company*  <5> 

That  toward  Canterbury  wo ulde  ride. 

The  chamber,  and  the  stables  were  wide. 

And  *well  we  weren  eased  at  the  best.* 

And  shortly,  when  the  sunne  was  to  rest. 

So  had  I  spoken  with  them  every  one. 

That  I  was  of  their  fellowship  anon. 

And  made  forword*  early  for  to  rise. 

To  take  our  way  there  as  I  you  devise*. 


we  were  well  provided 
with  the  best* 


promise 
*describe,  relate 


But  natheless,  while  I  have  time  and  space. 
Ere  that  I  farther  in  this  tale  pace. 
Me  thinketh  it  accordant  to  reason. 
To  tell  you  alle  the  condition 
Of  each  of  them,  so  as  it  seemed  me. 
And  which  they  weren,  and  of  what  degree; 
And  eke  in  what  array  that  they  were  in: 
And  at  a  Knight  then  will  I  first  begin. 


A  KNIGHT  there  was,  and  that  a  worthy  man. 

That  from  the  time  that  he  first  began 

To  riden  out,  he  loved  chivalry. 

Truth  and  honour,  freedom  and  courtesy. 

Full  worthy  was  he  in  his  Lorde's  war. 

And  thereto  had  he  ridden,  no  man  farre*,  *farther 

As  well  in  Christendom  as  in  Heatheness, 

And  ever  honour 'd  for  his  worthiness 

At  Alisandre  <6>  he  was  when  it  was  won. 

Full  often  time  he  had  the  board  begun 

Above  alle  nations  in  Prusse.<7> 

In  Lettowe  had  he  reysed,*  and  in  Russe,  *journeyed 


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No  Christian  man  so  oft  of  his  degree. 

In  Grenade  at  the  siege  eke  had  he  be 

Of  Algesir,  and  ridden  in  Belmarie.  <8> 

At  Leyes  was  he,  and  at  Satalie, 

When  they  were  won;  and  in  the  Greate  Sea 

At  many  a  noble  army  had  he  be. 

At  mortal  battles  had  he  been  fifteen. 

And  foughten  for  our  faith  atTramissene. 

In  listes  thries,  and  aye  slain  his  foe. 

This  ilke*  worthy  knight  had  been  also 

Some  time  with  the  lord  of  Palatie, 

Against  another  heathen  in  Turkic: 

And  evermore  *he  had  a  sovereign  price*. 

And  though  that  he  was  worthy  he  was  wise. 

And  of  his  port  as  meek  as  is  a  maid. 

He  never  yet  no  villainy  ne  said 

In  all  his  life,  unto  no  manner  wight. 

He  was  a  very  perfect  gentle  knight. 

But  for  to  telle  you  of  his  array. 

His  horse  was  good,  but  yet  he  was  not  gay. 

Of  fustian  he  weared  a  gipon*,  *short  doublet 

Alle  *besmotter'd  with  his  habergeon,*     *soiled  by  his  coat  of  mail. 

For  he  was  late  y-come  from  his  voyage. 

And  wente  for  to  do  his  pilgrimage. 


*same  <9> 


He  was  held  in  very 
high  esteem.* 


With  him  there  was  his  son,  a  younge  SQUIRE, 

A  lover,  and  a  lusty  bacheler. 

With  lockes  crulle*  as  they  were  laid  in  press. 

Of  twenty  year  of  age  he  was  I  guess. 

Of  his  stature  he  was  of  even  length. 

And  *wonderly  deliver*,  and  great  of  strength. 

And  he  had  been  some  time  in  chevachie*. 

In  Flanders,  in  Artois,  and  Picardie, 

And  borne  him  well,  *as  of  so  little  space*,       *in  such  a  short  time 


*curled 


Wonderfully  nimble* 
*cavalry  raids 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 

In  hope  to  standen  in  his  lady's  grace. 

Embroider'd  was  he,  as  it  were  a  mead 

All  full  of  freshe  flowers,  white  and  red. 

Singing  he  was,  or  fluting  all  the  day; 

He  was  as  fresh  as  is  the  month  of  May. 

Short  was  his  gown,  with  sleeves  long  and  wide. 

Well  could  he  sit  on  horse,  and  faire  ride. 

He  coulde  songes  make,  and  well  indite. 

Joust,  and  eke  dance,  and  well  pourtray  and  write. 

So  hot  he  loved,  that  by  nightertale*  *night-time 

He  slept  no  more  than  doth  the  nightingale. 

Courteous  he  was,  lowly,  and  serviceable. 

And  carv'd  before  his  father  at  the  table. <  10 > 

A  YEOMAN  had  he,  and  servants  no  mo' 

At  that  time,  for  *him  list  ride  so*  *it  pleased  him  so  to  ride* 

And  he  was  clad  in  coat  and  hood  of  green. 

A  sheaf  of  peacock  arrows<  11  >  bright  and  keen 

Under  his  belt  he  bare  full  thriftily. 

Well  could  he  dress  his  tackle  yeomanly: 

His  arrows  drooped  not  with  feathers  low; 

And  in  his  hand  he  bare  a  mighty  bow. 

A  nut-head  <  12>  had  he,  with  a  brown  visiage: 

Of  wood-craft  coud*  he  well  all  the  usage:  *knew 

Upon  his  arm  he  bare  a  gay  bracer*,  *small  shield 

And  by  his  side  a  sword  and  a  buckler. 

And  on  that  other  side  a  gay  daggere. 

Harnessed  well,  and  sharp  as  point  of  spear: 

A  Christopher  on  his  breast  of  silver  sheen. 

An  horn  he  bare,  the  baldric  was  of  green: 

A  forester  was  he  soothly*  as  I  guess.  *certainly 


There  was  also  a  Nun,  a  PRIORESS, 
That  of  her  smiling  was  full  simple  and  coy; 


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Her  greatest  oathe  was  but  by  Saint  Loy; 

And  she  was  cleped*  Madame  Eglentine.  *called 

Full  well  she  sang  the  service  divine, 

Entuned  in  her  nose  full  seemly; 

And  French  she  spake  full  fair  and  fetisly*  *properly 

After  the  school  of  Stratford  atte  Bow, 

For  French  of  Paris  was  to  her  unknow. 

At  meate  was  she  well  y-taught  withal; 

She  let  no  morsel  from  her  lippes  fall. 

Nor  wet  her  fmgers  in  her  sauce  deep. 

Well  could  she  carry  a  morsel,  and  well  keep. 

That  no  droppe  ne  fell  upon  her  breast. 

In  courtesy  was  set  full  much  her  lest*. 

Her  over-lippe  wiped  she  so  clean. 

That  in  her  cup  there  was  no  farthing*  seen 

Of  grease,  when  she  drunken  had  her  draught; 

Full  seemely  after  her  meat  she  raught*: 

And  *sickerly  she  was  of  great  disport*. 

And  full  pleasant,  and  amiable  of  port. 

And  *pained  her  to  counterfeite  cheer 

Of  court,*  and  be  estately  of  mannere. 

And  to  be  holden  digne*  of  reverence. 

But  for  to  speaken  of  her  conscience. 

She  was  so  charitable  and  so  pitous,*  *full  of  pity 

She  woulde  weep  if  that  she  saw  a  mouse 

Caught  in  a  trap,  if  it  were  dead  or  bled. 

Of  smalle  houndes  had  she,  that  she  fed 

With  roasted  flesh,  and  milk,  and  *wastel  bread.*   *fmest  white  bread* 

But  sore  she  wept  if  one  of  them  were  dead. 

Or  if  men  smote  it  with  a  yarde*  smart:  *staff 

And  all  was  conscience  and  tender  heart. 

Full  seemly  her  wimple  y-pinched  was; 

Her  nose  tretis;*  her  eyen  gray  as  glass; <  13  >  *well-formed 

Her  mouth  full  small,  and  thereto  soft  and  red; 


*pleasure 
*speck 


*reached  out  her  hand 
^surely  she  was  of  a  lively 
disposition* 
*took  pains  to  assume 
a  courtly  disposition* 
*worthy 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


certainly  she  was  not  small* 
*neat 


But  sickerly  she  had  a  fair  forehead. 

It  was  almost  a  spanne  broad  I  trow; 

For  *hardily  she  was  not  undergrow*. 

Full  fetis*  was  her  cloak,  as  I  was  ware 

Of  small  coral  about  her  arm  she  bare 

A  pair  of  beades,  gauded  all  with  green; 

And  thereon  hung  a  brooch  of  gold  full  sheen, 

On  which  was  first  y-written  a  crown'd  A, 

And  after,  *Amor  vincit  omnia.*  *love  conquers  all' 

Another  Nun  also  with  her  had  she, 

[That  was  her  chapelleine,  and  PRIESTES  three.] 


A  MONK  there  was,  a  fair  *for  the  mast  ry*. 

An  out-rider,  that  loved  venery*; 

A  manly  man,  to  be  an  abbot  able. 

Full  many  a  dainty  horse  had  he  in  stable: 

And  when  he  rode,  men  might  his  bridle  hear 

Jingeling  <15>  in  a  whistling  wind  as  clear. 

And  eke  as  loud,  as  doth  the  chapel  bell. 

There  as  this  lord  was  keeper  of  the  cell. 

The  rule  of  Saint  Maur  and  of  Saint  Benet,  <16; 

Because  that  it  was  old  and  somedeal  strait 

This  ilke*  monk  let  olde  thinges  pace. 

And  held  after  the  newe  world  the  trace. 

He  *gave  not  of  the  text  a  pulled  hen,* 

That  saith,  that  hunters  be  not  holy  men: 

Ne  that  a  monk,  when  he  is  cloisterless; 

Is  like  to  a  fish  that  is  waterless; 

This  is  to  say,  a  monk  out  of  his  cloister. 

This  ilke  text  held  he  not  worth  an  oyster; 

And  I  say  his  opinion  was  good. 

Why  should  he  study,  and  make  himselfe  wood* 

Upon  a  book  in  cloister  always  pore. 

Or  swinken*  with  his  handes,  and  labour. 


*above  all  others* 
*hunting 


:14> 


he  cared  nothing 
for  the  text* 


*mad<17> 


*toil 


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As  Austin  bid?  how  shall  the  world  be  served? 
Let  Austin  have  his  swink  to  him  reserved. 
Therefore  he  was  a  prickasour*  aright:  *hard  rider 

Greyhounds  he  had  as  swift  as  fowl  of  flight; 
Of  pricking*  and  of  hunting  for  the  hare  *riding 

Was  all  his  lust,*  for  no  cost  would  he  spare.  *pleasure 

I  saw  his  sleeves  *purfird  at  the  hand       *worked  at  the  end  with  a 
With  gris,*  and  that  the  finest  of  the  land.  fur  called  "gris"* 

And  for  to  fasten  his  hood  under  his  chin. 
He  had  of  gold  y- wrought  a  curious  pin; 
A  love-knot  in  the  greater  end  there  was. 
His  head  was  bald,  and  shone  as  any  glass. 
And  eke  his  face,  as  it  had  been  anoint; 
He  was  a  lord  full  fat  and  in  good  point; 

His  eyen  steep,*  and  rolling  in  his  head,  *deep-set 

That  steamed  as  a  furnace  of  a  lead. 
His  bootes  supple,  his  horse  in  great  estate. 
Now  certainly  he  was  a  fair  prelate; 

He  was  not  pale  as  a  forpined*  ghost;  *wasted 

A  fat  swan  lov'd  he  best  of  any  roast. 
His  palfrey  was  as  brown  as  is  a  berry. 


A  FRIAR  there  was,  a  wanton  and  a  merry, 

A  limitour  <18>,  a  full  solemne  man. 

In  all  the  orders  four  is  none  that  can*  *knows 

So  much  of  dalliance  and  fair  language. 

He  had  y-made  full  many  a  marriage 

Of  younge  women,  at  his  owen  cost. 

Unto  his  order  he  was  a  noble  post; 

Full  well  belov'd,  and  familiar  was  he 

With  franklins  *over  all*  in  his  country,  *everywhere* 

And  eke  with  worthy  women  of  the  town: 

For  he  had  power  of  confession. 

As  said  himselfe,  more  than  a  curate. 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  of  his  order  he  was  licentiate. 
Full  sweetely  heard  he  confession, 
And  pleasant  was  his  absolution. 
He  was  an  easy  man  to  give  penance, 
*There  as  he  wist  to  have  a  good  pittance:* 
For  unto  a  poor  order  for  to  give 
Is  signe  that  a  man  is  well  y-shrive. 
For  if  he  gave,  he  *durste  make  avant*. 
He  wiste*  that  the  man  was  repentant. 
For  many  a  man  so  hard  is  of  his  heart. 
He  may  not  weep  although  him  sore  smart 
Therefore  instead  of  weeping  and  prayeres. 
Men  must  give  silver  to  the  poore  freres. 
His  tippet  was  aye  farsed*  full  of  knives 
And  pinnes,  for  to  give  to  faire  wives; 
And  certainly  he  had  a  merry  note: 
Well  could  he  sing  and  playen  *on  a  rote*; 
Of  yeddings*  he  bare  utterly  the  prize. 
His  neck  was  white  as  is  the  fleur-de-lis. 
Thereto  he  strong  was  as  a  champion. 
And  knew  well  the  taverns  in  every  town. 
And  every  hosteler  and  gay  tapstere. 
Better  than  a  lazar*  or  a  beggere. 
For  unto  such  a  worthy  man  as  he 
Accordeth  not,  as  by  his  faculty. 
To  have  with  such  lazars  acquaintance. 
It  is  not  honest,  it  may  not  advance. 
As  for  to  deale  with  no  such  pouraille*. 
But  all  with  rich,  and  sellers  of  vitaille*. 
And  *ov'r  all  there  as*  profit  should  arise. 
Courteous  he  was,  and  lowly  of  service; 
There  n'as  no  man  nowhere  so  virtuous. 
He  was  the  beste  beggar  in  all  his  house: 
And  gave  a  certain  farme  for  the  grant,  <19> 


*where  he  know  he  would 
get  good  payment* 

*dared  to  boast* 
*knew 


*stuffed 


*from  memory* 
*songs 


*leper 


*offal,  refuse 
*victuals 
*in  every  place  where& 


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None  of  his  bretheren  came  in  his  haunt. 

For  though  a  widow  hadde  but  one  shoe. 

So  pleasant  was  his  In  Principio,<20> 

Yet  would  he  have  a  farthing  ere  he  went; 

His  purchase  was  well  better  than  his  rent. 

And  rage  he  could  and  play  as  any  whelp. 

In  lovedays  <21  >;  there  could  he  muchel*  help.  *greatly 

For  there  was  he  not  like  a  cloisterer. 

With  threadbare  cope  as  is  a  poor  scholer; 

But  he  was  like  a  master  or  a  pope. 

Of  double  worsted  was  his  semicope*,  *short  cloak 

That  rounded  was  as  a  bell  out  of  press. 

Somewhat  he  lisped  for  his  wantonness. 

To  make  his  English  sweet  upon  his  tongue; 

And  in  his  harping,  when  that  he  had  sung. 

His  eyen*  twinkled  in  his  head  aright,  *eyes 

As  do  the  starres  in  a  frosty  night. 

This  worthy  limitour  <18>  was  call'd  Huberd. 


A  MERCHANT  was  there  with  a  forked  beard. 
In  motley,  and  high  on  his  horse  he  sat. 
Upon  his  head  a  Flandrish  beaver  hat. 
His  bootes  clasped  fair  and  fetisly*. 
His  reasons  aye  spake  he  full  solemnly. 
Sounding  alway  th'  increase  of  his  winning. 
He  would  the  sea  were  kept  <22>  for  any  thing 
Betwixte  Middleburg  and  Orewell<23> 
Well  could  he  in  exchange  shieldes*  sell 
This  worthy  man  full  well  his  wit  beset*; 
There  wiste*  no  wight**  that  he  was  in  debt. 
So  *estately  was  he  of  governance* 
With  his  bargains,  and  with  his  chevisance*. 
For  sooth  he  was  a  worthy  man  withal. 
But  sooth  to  say,  I  not*  how  men  him  call. 


*neatly 


*crown  coins  <24> 
*employed 
*knew  **man 
so  well  he  managed* 
*business  contract 

*know  not 


10 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*thin;  **poorly 
uppermost  short  cloak* 


*rather 


A  CLERK  there  was  of  Oxenford*  also,  *Oxford 

That  unto  logic  hadde  long  y-go*.  *devoted  himself 

As  leane  was  his  horse  as  is  a  rake, 

And  he  was  not  right  fat,  I  undertake; 

But  looked  hollow*,  and  thereto  soberly**. 

Full  threadbare  was  his  *overest  courtepy*. 

For  he  had  gotten  him  yet  no  benefice, 

Ne  was  not  worldly,  to  have  an  office. 

For  him  was  lever*  have  at  his  bed's  head 

Twenty  bookes,  clothed  in  black  or  red. 

Of  Aristotle,  and  his  philosophy. 

Than  robes  rich,  or  fiddle,  or  psalt'ry. 

But  all  be  that  he  was  a  philosopher. 

Yet  hadde  he  but  little  gold  in  coffer. 

But  all  that  he  might  of  his  friendes  hent*,  *obtain 

On  bookes  and  on  learning  he  it  spent. 

And  busily  gan  for  the  soules  pray 

Of  them  that  gave  him  <25>  wherewith  to  schoky 

Of  study  took  he  moste  care  and  heed. 

Not  one  word  spake  he  more  than  was  need; 

And  that  was  said  in  form  and  reverence. 

And  short  and  quick,  and  full  of  high  sentence. 

Sounding  in  moral  virtue  was  his  speech. 

And  gladly  would  he  learn,  and  gladly  teach. 


*study 


A  SERGEANT  OF  THE  LAW,  wary  and  wise. 
That  often  had  y-been  at  the  Parvis,  <26> 
There  was  also,  full  rich  of  excellence. 
Discreet  he  was,  and  of  great  reverence: 
He  seemed  such,  his  wordes  were  so  wise. 
Justice  he  was  full  often  in  assize. 
By  patent,  and  by  plein*  commission; 
For  his  science,  and  for  his  high  renown. 


*full 


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Of  fees  and  robes  had  he  many  one. 
So  great  a  purchaser  was  nowhere  none. 
All  was  fee  simple  to  him,  in  effect 
His  purchasing  might  not  be  in  suspect* 
Nowhere  so  busy  a  man  as  he  there  was 
And  yet  he  seemed  busier  than  he  was 
In  termes  had  he  case'  and  doomes*  all 
That  from  the  time  of  King  Will,  were  fall. 
Thereto  he  could  indite,  and  make  a  thing 
There  coulde  no  wight  *pinch  at*  his  writing. 
And  every  statute  coud*  he  plain  by  rote 
He  rode  but  homely  in  a  medley*  coat. 
Girt  with  a  seint*  of  silk,  with  barres  small; 
Of  his  array  tell  I  no  longer  tale. 


11 


suspicion 


*judgements 


*find  fault  with* 

*knew 
*multicoloured 
*sash 


A  FRANKELIN*  was  in  this  company; 
White  was  his  beard,  as  is  the  daisy. 
Of  his  complexion  he  was  sanguine. 
Well  lov'd  he  in  the  morn  a  sop  in  wine. 
To  liven  in  delight  was  ever  his  won*. 
For  he  was  Epicurus'  owen  son. 
That  held  opinion,  that  plein*  delight 
Was  verily  felicity  perfite. 
An  householder,  and  that  a  great,  was  he; 
Saint  Julian<27>  he  was  in  his  country. 
His  bread,  his  ale,  was  alway  *after  one*; 
A  better  envined*  man  was  nowhere  none; 
Withoute  bake-meat  never  was  his  house. 
Offish  and  flesh,  and  that  so  plenteous. 
It  snowed  in  his  house  of  meat  and  drink. 
Of  alle  dainties  that  men  coulde  think. 
After  the  sundry  seasons  of  the  year. 
So  changed  he  his  meat  and  his  soupere. 
Full  many  a  fat  partridge  had  he  in  mew*. 


*Rich  landowner 


wont 


*full 


*pressed  on  one* 
*stored  with  wine 


*cage  <28> 


12 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  many  a  bream,  and  many  a  luce*  in  stew*^ 
Woe  was  his  cook,  *but  iP  his  sauce  were 
Poignant  and  sharp,  and  ready  all  his  gear. 
His  table  dormant*  in  his  hall  alway 
Stood  ready  cover'd  all  the  longe  day 
At  sessions  there  was  he  lord  and  sire. 
Full  often  time  he  was  *knight  of  the  shire* 
An  anlace*,  and  a  gipciere**  all  of  silk. 
Hung  at  his  girdle,  white  as  morning  milk. 
A  sheriff  had  he  been,  and  a  countour<30> 
Was  nowhere  such  a  worthy  vavasour<  3 1  > . 


<29>        *pike  **fish-pond 
*unless* 

*fixed 


*Member  of  Parliament* 
*dagger  **purse 


An  HABERDASHER,  and  a  CARPENTER, 
A  WEBBE*,  a  DYER,  and  aTAPISER**, 

Were  with  us  eke,  cloth'd  in  one  livery. 
Of  a  solemn  and  great  fraternity. 
Full  fresh  and  new  their  gear  y-picked*  was. 
Their  knives  were  y-chaped*  not  with  brass. 
But  all  with  silver  wrought  full  clean  and  well. 
Their  girdles  and  their  pouches  *every  deal*. 
Well  seemed  each  of  them  a  fair  burgess. 
To  sitten  in  a  guild-hall,  on  the  dais.  <32> 
Evereach,  for  the  wisdom  that  he  can*. 
Was  shapely*  for  to  be  an  alderman. 
For  chattels  hadde  they  enough  and  rent. 
And  eke  their  wives  would  it  well  assent: 
And  elles  certain  they  had  been  to  blame. 
It  is  full  fair  to  be  y-clep'd  madame. 
And  for  to  go  to  vigils  all  before. 
And  have  a  mantle  royally  y-bore.< 33  > 


*weaver  **tapestry-maker 


spruce 
*mounted 

*in  every  part* 


*knew 
*fitted 


A  COOK  they  hadde  with  them  for  the  nones*. 
To  boil  the  chickens  and  the  marrowbones. 
And  powder  merchant  tart  and  galingale. 


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Well  could  he  know  a  draught  of  London  ale. 

He  could  roast,  and  stew,  and  broil,  and  fry. 

Make  mortrewes,  and  well  bake  a  pie. 

But  great  harm  was  it,  as  it  thoughte  me. 

That,  on  his  shin  a  mormal*  hadde  he.  *ulcer 

For  blanc  manger,  that  made  he  with  the  best  <34> 


13 


A  SHIPMAN  was  there,  *wonned  far  by  West*:  *who  dwelt  far 

For  ought  I  wot,  be  was  of  Dartemouth.  to  the  West* 

He  rode  upon  a  rouncy*,  as  he  couth,  *hack 

All  in  a  gown  of  falding*  to  the  knee.  *coarse  cloth 

A  dagger  hanging  by  a  lace  had  he 

About  his  neck  under  his  arm  adown; 

The  hot  summer  had  made  his  hue  all  brown; 

And  certainly  he  was  a  good  fellaw 

Full  many  a  draught  of  wine  he  had  y-draw 

From  Bourdeaux-ward,  while  that  the  chapmen  sleep; 

Of  nice  conscience  took  he  no  keep. 

If  that  he  fought,  and  had  the  higher  hand, 

*By  water  he  sent  them  home  to  every  land.*  *he  drowned  his 

But  of  his  craft  to  reckon  well  his  tides,  prisoners* 

His  streames  and  his  strandes  him  besides. 

His  herberow*,  his  moon,  and  lodemanage**,  *harbourage 

There  was  none  such,  from  Hull  unto  Carthage  **pilotage<35> 

Hardy  he  was,  and  wise,  I  undertake: 

With  many  a  tempest  had  his  beard  been  shake. 

He  knew  well  all  the  havens,  as  they  were. 

From  Scotland  to  the  Cape  of  Finisterre, 

And  every  creek  in  Bretagne  and  in  Spain: 

His  barge  y-cleped  was  the  Magdelain. 


With  us  there  was  a  DOCTOR  OF  PHYSIC; 
In  all  this  worlde  was  there  none  him  like 
To  speak  of  physic,  and  of  surgery: 


14 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  he  was  grounded  in  astronomy. 

He  kept  his  patient  a  full  great  deal 

In  houres  by  his  magic  natural. 

Well  could  he  fortune*  the  ascendent  *make  fortunate 

Of  his  images  for  his  patient,. 

He  knew  the  cause  of  every  malady, 

Were  it  of  cold,  or  hot,  or  moist,  or  dry. 

And  where  engender'd,  and  of  what  humour. 

He  was  a  very  perfect  practisour 

The  cause  y-know,*  and  of  his  harm  the  root,  *known 

Anon  he  gave  to  the  sick  man  his  boot*  *remedy 

Full  ready  had  he  his  apothecaries. 

To  send  his  drugges  and  his  lectuaries 

For  each  of  them  made  other  for  to  win 

Their  friendship  was  not  newe  to  begin 

Well  knew  he  the  old  Esculapius, 

And  Dioscorides,  and  eke  Rufus; 

Old  Hippocras,  Hali,  and  Gallien; 

Serapion,  Rasis,  and  Avicen; 

Averrois,  Damascene,  and  Constantin; 

Bernard,  and  Gatisden,  and  Gilbertin.  <36> 

Of  his  diet  measurable  was  he. 

For  it  was  of  no  superfluity. 

But  of  great  nourishing,  and  digestible. 

His  study  was  but  little  on  the  Bible. 

In  sanguine*  and  in  perse**  he  clad  was  all  *red  **blue 

Lined  with  taffeta,  and  with  sendall*.  *fme  silk 

And  yet  *he  was  but  easy  of  dispense*:  *he  spent  very  little* 

He  kept  *that  he  won  in  the  pestilence*.  *the  money  he  made 

For  gold  in  physic  is  a  cordial;  during  the  plague* 

Therefore  he  loved  gold  in  special. 


A  good  WIFE  was  there  OF  beside  BATH, 

But  she  was  somedeal  deaf,  and  that  was  scath*.  *damage;  pity 


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15 


Of  cloth-making  she  hadde  such  an  haunt*,  *skill 

She  passed  them  of  Ypres,  and  of  Gaunt.  <37> 

In  all  the  parish  wife  was  there  none. 

That  to  the  off  ring*  before  her  should  gon,        *the  offering  at  mass 

And  if  there  did,  certain  so  wroth  was  she. 

That  she  was  out  of  alle  charity 

Her  coverchiefs*  were  full  fme  of  ground  *head-dresses 

I  durste  swear,  they  weighede  ten  pound  <38> 

That  on  the  Sunday  were  upon  her  head. 

Her  hosen  weren  of  fme  scarlet  red. 

Full  strait  y-tied,  and  shoes  full  moist*  and  new  *fresh  <39> 

Bold  was  her  face,  and  fair  and  red  of  hue. 

She  was  a  worthy  woman  all  her  live. 

Husbands  at  the  church  door  had  she  had  five, 

Withouten  other  company  in  youth; 

But  thereof  needeth  not  to  speak  as  nouth*.  *now 

And  thrice  had  she  been  at  Jerusalem; 

She  hadde  passed  many  a  strange  stream 

At  Rome  she  had  been,  and  at  Bologne, 

In  Galice  at  Saint  James,  <40>  and  at  Cologne; 

She  coude*  much  of  wand'rng  by  the  Way.  *knew 

Gat-toothed*  was  she,  soothly  for  to  say.  *Buck-toothed<41  > 

Upon  an  ambler  easily  she  sat, 

Y-wimpled  well,  and  on  her  head  an  hat 

As  broad  as  is  a  buckler  or  a  targe. 

A  foot-mantle  about  her  hippes  large. 

And  on  her  feet  a  pair  of  spurres  sharp. 

In  fellowship  well  could  she  laugh  and  carp*  *jest,  talk 

Of  remedies  of  love  she  knew  perchance 

For  of  that  art  she  coud*  the  olde  dance.  *knew 


A  good  man  there  was  of  religion. 
That  was  a  poore  PARSON  of  a  town: 
But  rich  he  was  of  holy  thought  and  werk*. 


*work 


16 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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17 


He  was  also  a  learned  man,  a  clerk, 

That  Christe's  gospel  truly  wo ulde  preach. 

His  parishens*  devoutly  would  he  teach.  *parishioners 

Benign  he  was,  and  wonder  diligent. 

And  in  adversity  full  patient: 

And  such  he  was  y-proved  *often  sithes*.  *oftentimes* 

Full  loth  were  him  to  curse  for  his  tithes. 

But  rather  would  he  given  out  of  doubt. 

Unto  his  poore  parishens  about. 

Of  his  off  ring,  and  eke  of  his  substance. 

*He  could  in  little  thing  have  suffisance*.       *he  was  satisfied  with 

Wide  was  his  parish,  and  houses  far  asunder,  very  little* 

But  he  ne  left  not,  for  no  rain  nor  thunder. 

In  sickness  and  in  mischief  to  visit 

The  farthest  in  his  parish,  *much  and  lit*,  *great  and  small* 

Upon  his  feet,  and  in  his  hand  a  staff. 

This  noble  ensample  to  his  sheep  he  gaP,  *gave 

That  first  he  wrought,  and  afterward  he  taught. 

Out  of  the  gospel  he  the  wordes  caught. 

And  this  figure  he  added  yet  thereto. 

That  if  gold  ruste,  what  should  iron  do? 

For  if  a  priest  be  foul,  on  whom  we  trust. 

No  wonder  is  a  lewed*  man  to  rust:  *unlearned 

And  shame  it  is,  if  that  a  priest  take  keep. 

To  see  a  shitten  shepherd  and  clean  sheep: 

Well  ought  a  priest  ensample  for  to  give. 

By  his  own  cleanness,  how  his  sheep  should  live. 

He  sette  not  his  benefice  to  hire. 

And  left  his  sheep  eucumber'd  in  the  mire. 

And  ran  unto  London,  unto  Saint  Paul's, 

To  seeke  him  a  chantery<42>  for  souls. 

Or  with  a  brotherhood  to  be  withold:*  *detained 

But  dwelt  at  home,  and  kepte  well  his  fold. 

So  that  the  wolf  ne  made  it  not  miscarry. 


severe 
*disdainful 


*butifitwere* 


He  was  a  shepherd,  and  no  mercenary. 

And  though  he  holy  were,  and  virtuous. 

He  was  to  sinful  men  not  dispitous* 

Nor  of  his  speeche  dangerous  nor  dign* 

But  in  his  teaching  discreet  and  benign. 

To  drawen  folk  to  heaven,  with  fairness. 

By  good  ensample,  was  his  business: 

*But  it  were*  any  person  obstinate. 

What  so  he  were  of  high  or  low  estate. 

Him  would  he  snibbe*  sharply  for  the  nones**.  *reprove  **nonce,occasion 

A  better  priest  I  trow  that  nowhere  none  is. 

He  waited  after  no  pomp  nor  reverence. 

Nor  maked  him  a  *spiced  conscience*,  *artificial  conscience* 

But  Christe's  lore,  and  his  apostles'  twelve. 

He  taught,  and  first  he  follow'd  it  himselve. 

With  him  there  was  a  PLOUGHMAN,  was  his  brother. 

That  had  y-laid  of  dung  full  many  a  fother*.  *ton 

A  true  swinker*  and  a  good  was  he,  *hard  worker 

Living  in  peace  and  perfect  charity. 

God  loved  he  beste  with  all  his  heart 

At  alle  times,  were  it  gain  or  smart*,  *pain,  loss 

And  then  his  neighebour  right  as  himselve. 

He  woulde  thresh,  and  thereto  dike*,  and  delve,  *dig  ditches 

For  Christe's  sake,  for  every  poore  wight, 

Withouten  hire,  if  it  lay  in  his  might. 

His  tithes  payed  he  full  fair  and  well. 

Both  of  his  *proper  swink*,  and  his  chattel**   *his  own  labour*  **goods 

In  a  tabard*  he  rode  upon  a  mare.  *sleeveless  jerkin 

There  was  also  a  Reeve,  and  a  Millere, 

A  Sompnour,  and  a  Pardoner  also, 

A  Manciple,  and  myself,  there  were  no  mo'. 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 
1  o 

The  MILLER  was  a  stout  carle  for  the  nones, 

Full  big  he  was  of  brawn,  and  eke  of  bones; 

That  proved  well,  for  *ov'r  all  where*  he  came,  *wheresoever* 

At  wrestling  he  would  bear  away  the  ram.  < 43  > 

He  was  short-shouldered,  broad,  a  thicke  gnarr*,  *stump  of  wood 

There  was  no  door,  that  he  n'old*  heave  off  bar,  *could  not 

Or  break  it  at  a  running  with  his  head. 

His  beard  as  any  sow  or  fox  was  red. 

And  thereto  broad,  as  though  it  were  a  spade. 

Upon  the  cop*  right  of  his  nose  he  had  *head  <44> 

A  wart,  and  thereon  stood  a  tuft  of  hairs 

Red  as  the  bristles  of  a  sowe's  ears. 

His  nose-thirles*  blacke  were  and  wide.  *nostrils  <45> 

A  sword  and  buckler  bare  he  by  his  side. 

His  mouth  as  wide  was  as  a  furnace. 

He  was  a  j angler,  and  a  goliardais*,  *buffoon  <46> 

And  that  was  most  of  sin  and  harlotries. 

Well  could  he  steale  corn,  and  tolle  thrice 

And  yet  he  had  a  thumb  of  gold,  pardie.<47> 

A  white  coat  and  a  blue  hood  weared  he 

A  baggepipe  well  could  he  blow  and  soun'. 

And  therewithal  he  brought  us  out  of  town. 


A  gentle  MANCIPLE  <48>  was  there  of  a  temple. 

Of  which  achatours*  mighte  take  ensample  *buyers 

For  to  be  wise  in  buying  of  vitaille*.  *victuals 

For  whether  that  he  paid,  or  took  *by  taile*,  *on  credit 

Algate*  he  waited  so  in  his  achate**,  *always  **purchase 

That  he  was  aye  before  in  good  estate. 

Now  is  not  that  of  God  a  full  fair  grace 

That  such  a  lewed*  mannes  wit  shall  pace**  *unlearned  **surpass 

The  wisdom  of  an  heap  of  learned  men? 

Of  masters  had  he  more  than  thries  ten. 

That  were  of  law  expert  and  curious: 


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Of  which  there  was  a  dozen  in  that  house. 

Worthy  to  be  stewards  of  rent  and  land 

Of  any  lord  that  is  in  Engleland, 

To  make  him  live  by  his  proper  good. 

In  honour  debtless,  *but  if  he  were  wood*. 

Or  live  as  scarcely  as  him  list  desire; 

And  able  for  to  helpen  all  a  shire 

In  any  case  that  mighte  fall  or  hap; 

And  yet  this  Manciple  *set  their  aller  cap* 


19 


*unless  he  were  mad* 


*outwitted  them  all* 


The  REEVE  <49>  was  a  slender  choleric  man 
His  beard  was  shav'd  as  nigh  as  ever  he  can. 
His  hair  was  by  his  eares  round  y-shorn; 
His  top  was  docked  like  a  priest  beforn 
Full  longe  were  his  legges,  and  full  lean 
Y-like  a  staff,  there  was  no  calf  y-seen 
Well  could  he  keep  a  garner*  and  a  bin* 
There  was  no  auditor  could  on  him  win 
Well  wist  he  by  the  drought,  and  by  the  rain. 
The  yielding  of  his  seed  and  of  his  grain 
His  lorde's  sheep,  his  neat*,  and  his  dairy 
His  swine,  his  horse,  his  store,  and  his  poultry. 
Were  wholly  in  this  Reeve  s  governing. 
And  by  his  cov'nant  gave  he  reckoning. 
Since  that  his  lord  was  twenty  year  of  age; 
There  could  no  man  bring  him  in  arrearage 
There  was  no  bailiff,  herd,  nor  other  hine* 
That  he  ne  knew  his  *sleight  and  his  covine* 
They  were  adrad*  of  him,  as  of  the  death 
His  wonning*  was  full  fair  upon  an  heath 
With  greene  trees  y-shadow'd  was  his  place. 
He  coulde  better  than  his  lord  purchase 
Full  rich  he  was  y-stored  privily 
His  lord  well  could  he  please  subtilly, 


*storeplaces  for  grain 


*cattle 


servant 
*tricks  and  cheating* 
*in  dread 
*abode 


20 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


To  give  and  lend  him  of  his  owen  good, 

And  have  a  thank,  and  yet*  a  coat  and  hood. 

In  youth  he  learned  had  a  good  mistere* 

He  was  a  well  good  wright,  a  carpentere 

This  Reeve  sate  upon  a  right  good  stot*. 

That  was  all  pomely*  gray,  and  highte**  Scot. 

A  long  surcoat  of  perse*  upon  he  had. 

And  by  his  side  he  bare  a  rusty  blade. 

Of  Norfolk  was  this  Reeve,  of  which  I  tell. 

Beside  a  town  men  clepen*  Baldeswell, 

Tucked  he  was,  as  is  a  friar,  about. 

And  ever  rode  the  *hinderest  of  the  rout*.        *hindmost  of  the  group* 


*also 
*trade 

*steed 

*dappled  **called 

*sky-blue 


*call 


A  SOMPNOUR*  was  there  with  us  in  that  place,  *summoner  <50> 

That  had  a  fire-red  cherubinnes  face. 

For  sausefleme*  he  was,  with  eyen  narrow.  *red  or  pimply 

As  hot  he  was  and  lecherous  as  a  sparrow. 

With  scalled  browes  black,  and  pilled*  beard:  *scanty 

Of  his  visage  children  were  sore  afeard. 

There  n'as  quicksilver,  litharge,  nor  brimstone. 

Boras,  ceruse,  nor  oil  of  tartar  none. 

Nor  ointement  that  woulde  cleanse  or  bite. 

That  him  might  helpen  of  his  whelkes*  white,  *pustules 

Nor  of  the  knobbes*  sitting  on  his  cheeks.  *buttons 

Well  lov'd  he  garlic,  onions,  and  leeks. 

And  for  to  drink  strong  wine  as  red  as  blood. 

Then  would  he  speak,  and  cry  as  he  were  wood; 

And  when  that  he  well  drunken  had  the  wine. 

Then  would  he  speake  no  word  but  Latin. 

A  fewe  termes  knew  he,  two  or  three. 

That  he  had  learned  out  of  some  decree; 

No  wonder  is,  he  heard  it  all  the  day. 

And  eke  ye  knowen  well,  how  that  a  jay 

Can  clepen*  "Wat,"  as  well  as  can  the  Pope.  *call 


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But  whoso  would  in  other  thing  him  grope*,  *search 

Then  had  he  spent  all  his  philosophy. 
Aye,  Questio  quid  juris,<51>  would  he  cry. 


21 


He  was  a  gentle  harlot*  and  a  kind;  *a  low  fellow<52> 

A  better  fellow  should  a  man  not  fmd. 

He  woulde  suffer,  for  a  quart  of  wine, 

A  good  fellow  to  have  his  concubine 

A  twelvemonth,  and  excuse  him  at  the  full. 

Full  privily  a  *fmch  eke  could  he  pull*.  *"fleece"  a  man* 

And  if  he  found  owhere*  a  good  fellaw,  *anywhere 

He  woulde  teache  him  to  have  none  awe 

In  such  a  case  of  the  archdeacon's  curse; 

*But  iP  a  manne's  soul  were  in  his  purse;  *unless* 

For  in  his  purse  he  should  y-punished  be. 

"Purse  is  the  archedeacons  hell,"  said  he. 

But  well  I  wot,  he  lied  right  indeed: 

Of  cursing  ought  each  guilty  man  to  dread. 

For  curse  will  slay  right  as  assoiling*  saveth;  *absolving 

And  also  ware  him  of  a  significavit<53>. 

In  danger  had  he  at  his  owen  guise 

The  younge  girles  of  the  diocese,  <54> 

And  knew  their  counsel,  and  was  of  their  rede*.  *counsel 

A  garland  had  he  set  upon  his  head. 

As  great  as  it  were  for  an  alestake*:       *The  post  of  an  alehouse  sign 

A  buckler  had  he  made  him  of  a  cake. 


With  him  there  rode  a  gentle  PARDONERE  <SS> 

Of  Ronceval,  his  friend  and  his  compere. 

That  straight  was  comen  from  the  court  of  Rome. 

Full  loud  he  sang,  "Come  hither,  love,  to  me" 

This  Sompnour  *bare  to  him  a  stiff  burdoun*. 

Was  never  trump  of  half  so  great  a  soun'. 

This  Pardoner  had  hair  as  yellow  as  wax. 


*sang  the  bass* 


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23 


But  smooth  it  hung,  as  doth  a  strike*  of  flax:  *strip 

By  ounces  hung  his  lockes  that  he  had, 

And  therewith  he  his  shoulders  oversprad. 

Full  thin  it  lay,  by  culpons*  one  and  one,  *locks,  shreds 

But  hood  for  jollity,  he  weared  none. 

For  it  was  trussed  up  in  his  wallet. 

Him  thought  he  rode  all  of  the  *newe  get*,  *latest  fashion*<56> 

Dishevel,  save  his  cap,  he  rode  all  bare. 

Such  glaring  eyen  had  he,  as  an  hare. 

A  vernicle*  had  he  sew'd  upon  his  cap.  *image  of  Christ  <S7> 

His  wallet  lay  before  him  in  his  lap, 

Bretful*  of  pardon  come  from  Rome  all  hot.  *brimful 

A  voice  he  had  as  small  as  hath  a  goat. 

No  beard  had  he,  nor  ever  one  should  have. 

As  smooth  it  was  as  it  were  new  y-shave; 

I  trow  he  were  a  gelding  or  a  mare. 

But  of  his  craft,  from  Berwick  unto  Ware, 

Ne  was  there  such  another  pardonere. 

For  in  his  mail*  he  had  a  pillowbere**,  *bag  <58>  **pillowcase 

Which,  as  he  saide,  was  our  Lady's  veil: 

He  said,  he  had  a  gobbet*  of  the  sail  *piece 

That  Sainte  Peter  had,  when  that  he  went 

Upon  the  sea,  till  Jesus  Christ  him  hent*.  *took  hold  of 

He  had  a  cross  of  latoun*  full  of  stones,  *copper 

And  in  a  glass  he  hadde  pigge's  bones. 

But  with  these  relics,  whenne  that  he  fond 

A  poore  parson  dwelling  upon  lond. 

Upon  a  day  he  got  him  more  money 

Than  that  the  parson  got  in  moneths  tway; 

And  thus  with  feigned  flattering  and  japes*,  *jests 

He  made  the  parson  and  the  people  his  apes. 

But  truely  to  tellen  at  the  last. 

He  was  in  church  a  noble  ecclesiast. 

Well  could  he  read  a  lesson  or  a  story. 


But  alderbest*  he  sang  an  offertory:  *best  of  all 

For  well  he  wiste,  when  that  song  was  sung. 

He  muste  preach,  and  well  afile*  his  tongue,  *polish 

To  winne  silver,  as  he  right  well  could: 

Therefore  he  sang  full  merrily  and  loud. 

Now  have  I  told  you  shortly  in  a  clause 

Th'  estate,  th'  array,  the  number,  and  eke  the  cause 

Why  that  assembled  was  this  company 

In  Southwark  at  this  gentle  hostelry. 

That  highte  the  Tabard,  fast  by  the  Bell.  <  59  > 

But  now  is  time  to  you  for  to  tell 

*How  that  we  baren  us  that  ilke  night*,     *what  we  did  that  same  night* 

When  we  were  in  that  hostelry  alight. 

And  after  will  I  tell  of  our  voyage. 

And  all  the  remnant  of  our  pilgrimage. 

But  first  I  pray  you  of  your  courtesy. 

That  ye  *arette  it  not  my  villainy*,        *count  it  not  rudeness  in  me* 

Though  that  I  plainly  speak  in  this  mattere. 

To  tellen  you  their  wordes  and  their  cheer; 

Not  though  I  speak  their  wordes  properly. 

For  this  ye  knowen  all  so  well  as  I, 

Whoso  shall  tell  a  tale  after  a  man. 

He  must  rehearse,  as  nigh  as  ever  he  can. 

Every  word,  if  it  be  in  his  charge, 

*A11  speak  he*  ne'er  so  rudely  and  so  large;  *let  him  speak* 

Or  elles  he  must  tell  his  tale  untrue. 

Or  feigne  things,  or  fmde  wordes  new. 

He  may  not  spare,  although  he  were  his  brother; 

He  must  as  well  say  one  word  as  another. 

Christ  spake  Himself  full  broad  in  Holy  Writ, 

And  well  ye  wot  no  villainy  is  it. 

Eke  Plato  saith,  whoso  that  can  him  read. 

The  wordes  must  be  cousin  to  the  deed. 


24 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Also  I  pray  you  to  forgive  it  me, 

*A11  have  I*  not  set  folk  in  their  degree,  *although  I  have* 

Here  in  this  tale,  as  that  they  shoulden  stand: 

My  wit  is  short,  ye  may  well  understand. 


Great  cheere  made  our  Host  us  every  one. 

And  to  the  supper  set  he  us  anon: 

And  served  us  with  victual  of  the  best. 

Strong  was  the  wine,  and  well  to  drink  us  lest*.  *pleased 

A  seemly  man  Our  Hoste  was  withal 

For  to  have  been  a  marshal  in  an  hall. 

A  large  man  he  was  with  eyen  steep*,  *deep-set. 

A  fairer  burgess  is  there  none  in  Cheap <  60  > : 

Bold  of  his  speech,  and  wise  and  well  y-taught. 

And  of  manhoode  lacked  him  right  naught. 

Eke  thereto  was  he  right  a  merry  man. 

And  after  supper  playen  he  began. 

And  spake  of  mirth  amonges  other  things. 

When  that  we  hadde  made  our  reckonings; 

And  saide  thus;  "Now,  lordinges,  truly 

Ye  be  to  me  welcome  right  heartily: 

For  by  my  troth,  if  that  I  shall  not  lie, 

I  saw  not  this  year  such  a  company 

At  once  in  this  herberow*,  am  is  now.  *inn  <61> 

Fain  would  I  do  you  mirth,  an*  I  wist*  how.  *if  I  knew* 

And  of  a  mirth  I  am  right  now  bethought. 

To  do  you  ease*,  and  it  shall  coste  nought.  *pleasure 

Ye  go  to  Canterbury;  God  you  speed. 

The  blissful  Martyr  *quite  you  your  meed*;  *grant  you  what 

And  well  I  wot,  as  ye  go  by  the  way,  you  deserve* 

Ye  *shapen  you*  to  talken  and  to  play:  *intend  to* 

For  truely  comfort  nor  mirth  is  none 

To  ride  by  the  way  as  dumb  as  stone: 

And  therefore  would  I  make  you  disport. 


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As  I  said  erst,  and  do  you  some  comfort. 
And  if  you  liketh  all  by  one  assent 
Now  for  to  standen  at  my  judgement. 
And  for  to  worken  as  I  shall  you  say 
To-morrow,  when  ye  riden  on  the  way. 
Now  by  my  father's  soule  that  is  dead, 
*But  ye  be  merry,  smiteth  ofP  mine  head. 
Hold  up  your  hands  withoute  more  speech. 


25 


*unless  you  are  merry, 
smite  off  my  head* 


Our  counsel  was  not  longe  for  to  seech*:  *seek 

Us  thought  it  was  not  worth  to  *make  it  wise*,     *discuss  it  at  length* 

And  granted  him  withoute  more  avise*,  *consideration 

And  bade  him  say  his  verdict,  as  him  lest. 

Lordings  (quoth  he),  now  hearken  for  the  best; 

But  take  it  not,  I  pray  you,  in  disdain; 

This  is  the  point,  to  speak  it  plat*  and  plain.  *flat 

That  each  of  you,  to  shorten  with  your  way 

In  this  voyage,  shall  tellen  tales  tway. 

To  Canterbury-ward,  I  mean  it  so. 

And  homeward  he  shall  tellen  other  two. 

Of  aventures  that  whilom  have  befall. 

And  which  of  you  that  bear'th  him  best  of  all. 

That  is  to  say,  that  telleth  in  this  case 

Tales  of  best  sentence  and  most  solace. 

Shall  have  a  supper  *at  your  aller  cost*         *at  the  cost  of  you  all* 

Here  in  this  place,  sitting  by  this  post. 

When  that  ye  come  again  from  Canterbury. 

And  for  to  make  you  the  more  merry, 

I  will  myselfe  gladly  with  you  ride. 

Right  at  mine  owen  cost,  and  be  your  guide. 

And  whoso  will  my  judgement  withsay. 

Shall  pay  for  all  we  spenden  by  the  way. 

And  if  ye  vouchesafe  that  it  be  so. 

Tell  me  anon  withoute  wordes  mo'*,  *more 


26 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  I  will  early  shape  me  therefore." 

This  thing  was  granted,  and  our  oath  we  swore 

With  full  glad  heart,  and  prayed  him  also. 

That  he  would  vouchesafe  for  to  do  so. 

And  that  he  woulde  be  our  governour. 

And  of  our  tales  judge  and  reportour. 

And  set  a  supper  at  a  certain  price; 

And  we  will  ruled  be  at  his  device. 

In  high  and  low:  and  thus  by  one  assent. 

We  be  accorded  to  his  judgement. 

And  thereupon  the  wine  was  fet*  anon.  *fetched. 

We  drunken,  and  to  reste  went  each  one, 

Withouten  any  longer  tarrying 

A-morrow,  when  the  day  began  to  spring. 

Up  rose  our  host,  and  was  *our  aller  cock*,     *the  cock  to  wake  us  all* 

And  gather'd  us  together  in  a  flock. 

And  forth  we  ridden  all  a  little  space. 

Unto  the  watering  of  Saint  Thomas<  62  > : 

And  there  our  host  began  his  horse  arrest. 

And  saide;  "Lordes,  hearken  if  you  lest. 

Ye  *weet  your  forword,*  and  I  it  record.  *know  your  promise* 

If  even-song  and  morning-song  accord. 

Let  see  now  who  shall  telle  the  first  tale. 

As  ever  may  I  drinke  wine  or  ale. 

Whoso  is  rebel  to  my  judgement. 

Shall  pay  for  all  that  by  the  way  is  spent. 

Now  draw  ye  cuts*,  ere  that  ye  farther  twin**.  *lots  **go 

He  which  that  hath  the  shortest  shall  begin." 


"Sir  Knight  (quoth  he),  my  master  and  my  lord. 
Now  draw  the  cut,  for  that  is  mine  accord. 
Come  near  (quoth  he),  my  Lady  Prioress, 
And  ye.  Sir  Clerk,  let  be  your  shamefastness. 


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27 


Nor  study  not:  lay  hand  to,  every  man." 
Anon  to  drawen  every  wight  began. 
And  shortly  for  to  tellen  as  it  was. 
Were  it  by  a  venture,  or  sort*,  or  cas**. 
The  sooth  is  this,  the  cut  fell  to  the  Knight, 
Of  which  full  blithe  and  glad  was  every  wight; 
And  tell  he  must  his  tale  as  was  reason. 
By  forword,  and  by  composition. 
As  ye  have  heard;  what  needeth  wordes  mo'? 
And  when  this  good  man  saw  that  it  was  so. 
As  he  that  wise  was  and  obedient 
To  keep  his  forword  by  his  free  assent. 
He  said;  "Sithen*  I  shall  begin  this  game. 
Why,  welcome  be  the  cut  in  Godde's  name. 
Now  let  us  ride,  and  hearken  what  I  say." 
And  with  that  word  we  ridden  forth  our  way; 
And  he  began  with  right  a  merry  cheer 
His  tale  anon,  and  said  as  ye  shall  hear. 


*lot  **chance 


28 


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29 


>^Me  <-Jnj2mAl  i  >^ya/e 


WHILOM*,  as  olde  stories  tellen  us,  *formerly 

There  was  a  duke  that  highte* Theseus.  *was  called  <2> 

Of  Athens  he  was  lord  and  governor. 

And  in  his  time  such  a  conqueror 

That  greater  was  there  none  under  the  sun. 

Full  many  a  riche  country  had  he  won. 

What  with  his  wisdom  and  his  chivalry. 

He  conquer'd  all  the  regne  of  Feminie,<3> 

That  whilom  was  y-cleped  Scythia; 

And  weddede  the  Queen  Hippolyta 

And  brought  her  home  with  him  to  his  country 

With  muchel*  glory  and  great  solemnity,  *great 

And  eke  her  younge  sister  Emily, 

And  thus  with  vict'ry  and  with  melody 

Let  I  this  worthy  Duke  to  Athens  ride. 

And  all  his  host,  in  armes  him  beside. 

And  certes,  if  it  n'ere*  too  long  to  hear,  *were  not 

I  would  have  told  you  fully  the  mannere. 

How  wonnen*  was  the  regne  of  Feminie,  <4>  *wo 

By  Theseus,  and  by  his  chivalry; 

And  of  the  greate  battle  for  the  nonce 

Betwixt  Athenes  and  the  Amazons; 

And  how  assieged  was  Hippolyta, 

The  faire  hardy  queen  of  Scythia; 


And  of  the  feast  that  was  at  her  wedding 
And  of  the  tempest  at  her  homecoming. 
But  all  these  things  I  must  as  now  forbear. 
I  have,  God  wot,  a  large  field  to  ear* 
And  weake  be  the  oxen  in  my  plough; 
The  remnant  of  my  tale  is  long  enow. 
I  will  not  *letten  eke  none  of  this  rout*. 
Let  every  fellow  tell  his  tale  about. 
And  let  see  now  who  shall  the  supper  win. 
There  *as  I  left*,  I  will  again  begin. 


*plough<5>; 


*hinder  any  of 
this  company* 

*where  I  left  ofP 


This  Duke,  of  whom  I  make  mentioun. 

When  he  was  come  almost  unto  the  town. 

In  all  his  weal,  and  in  his  moste  pride. 

He  was  ware,  as  he  cast  his  eye  aside. 

Where  that  there  kneeled  in  the  highe  way 

A  company  of  ladies,  tway  and  tway. 

Each  after  other,  clad  in  clothes  black: 

But  such  a  cry  and  such  a  woe  they  make. 

That  in  this  world  n'is  creature  living. 

That  hearde  such  another  waimenting*  *lamenting  <6> 

And  of  this  crying  would  they  never  stenten*,  *desist 

Till  they  the  reines  of  his  bridle  henten*.  *seize 

"What  folk  be  ye  that  at  mine  homecoming 

Perturben  so  my  feaste  with  crying?" 

Quoth  Theseus;  "Have  ye  so  great  envy 

Of  mine  honour,  that  thus  complain  and  cry? 

Or  who  hath  you  misboden*,  or  offended?  *wronged 

Do  telle  me,  if  it  maybe  amended; 

And  why  that  ye  be  clad  thus  all  in  black?" 

The  oldest  lady  of  them  all  then  spake. 

When  she  had  swooned,  with  a  deadly  cheer*,  *countenance 

That  it  was  ruthe*  for  to  see  or  hear.  *pity 


30 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


She  saide;  "Lord,  to  whom  fortune  hath  given 
Vict'ry,  and  as  a  conqueror  to  liven, 
Nought  grieveth  us  your  glory  and  your  honour; 
But  we  beseechen  mercy  and  succour. 
Have  mercy  on  our  woe  and  our  distress; 
Some  drop  of  pity,  through  thy  gentleness. 
Upon  us  wretched  women  let  now  fall. 
For  certes,  lord,  there  is  none  of  us  all 
That  hath  not  been  a  duchess  or  a  queen; 
Now  be  we  caitives*,  as  it  is  well  seen: 
Thanked  be  Fortune,  and  her  false  wheel. 
That  *none  estate  ensureth  to  be  wele*. 
And  certes,  lord,  t'abiden  your  presence 
Here  in  this  temple  of  the  goddess  Clemence 
We  have  been  waiting  all  this  fortenight: 
Now  help  us,  lord,  since  it  lies  in  thy  might. 


captives 

assures  no  continuance  of 
prosperous  estate* 


"I,  wretched  wight,  that  weep  and  waile  thus. 

Was  whilom  wife  to  king  Capaneus, 

That  starP  at  Thebes,  cursed  be  that  day: 

And  alle  we  that  be  in  this  array. 

And  maken  all  this  lamentatioun. 

We  losten  all  our  husbands  at  that  town. 

While  that  the  siege  thereabouten  lay. 

And  yet  the  olde  Creon,  wellaway! 

That  lord  is  now  of  Thebes  the  city. 

Fulfilled  of  ire  and  of  iniquity. 

He  for  despite,  and  for  his  tyranny. 

To  do  the  deade  bodies  villainy*. 

Of  all  our  lorde's,  which  that  been  y-slaw. 

Hath  all  the  bodies  on  an  heap  y-draw. 

And  will  not  suffer  them  by  none  assent 

Neither  to  be  y-buried,  nor  y-brent*. 

But  maketh  houndes  eat  them  in  despite." 


*died  <7> 


*insult 
*slain 


*burnt 


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31 


And  with  that  word,  withoute  more  respite 
They  fallen  groff,*  and  cryden  piteously; 
"Have  on  us  wretched  women  some  mercy. 
And  let  our  sorrow  sinken  in  thine  heart." 


*gro  veiling 


This  gentle  Duke  down  from  his  courser  start 

With  hearte  piteous,  when  he  heard  them  speak. 

Him  thoughte  that  his  heart  would  all  to-break. 

When  he  saw  them  so  piteous  and  so  mate* 

That  whilom  weren  of  so  great  estate. 

And  in  his  armes  he  them  all  up  hent*. 

And  them  comforted  in  full  good  intent. 

And  swore  his  oath,  as  he  was  true  knight. 

He  woulde  do  *so  farforthly  his  might* 

Upon  the  tyrant  Creon  them  to  wreak*. 

That  all  the  people  of  Greece  shoulde  speak. 

How  Creon  was  of  Theseus  y-served. 

As  he  that  had  his  death  full  well  deserved. 

And  right  anon  withoute  more  abode* 

His  banner  he  display 'd,  and  forth  he  rode 

To  Thebes-ward,  and  all  his,  host  beside: 

No  ner*  Athenes  would  he  go  nor  ride. 

Nor  take  his  ease  fully  half  a  day. 

But  onward  on  his  way  that  night  he  lay: 

And  sent  anon  Hippolyta  the  queen. 

And  Emily  her  younge  sister  sheen* 

Unto  the  town  of  Athens  for  to  dwell: 

And  forth  he  rit*;  there  is  no  more  to  tell. 


*abased 


*raised,  took 


'as  far  as  his  power  went* 
*avenge 


*delay 


*bright,  lovely 


*rode 


The  red  statue  of  Mars  with  spear  and  targe* 
So  shineth  in  his  white  banner  large 
That  all  the  fieldes  glitter  up  and  down: 
And  by  his  banner  borne  is  his  pennon 
Of  gold  full  rich,  in  which  there  was  y-beat* 


*shield 


*stamped 


32 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Minotaur<8>  which  that  he  slew  in  Crete 
Thus  rit  this  Duke,  thus  rit  this  conqueror 
And  in  his  host  of  chivalry  the  flower, 
Till  that  he  came  to  Thebes,  and  alight 
Fair  in  a  field,  there  as  he  thought  to  fight. 
But  shortly  for  to  speaken  of  this  thing. 
With  Creon,  which  that  was  of  Thebes  king. 
He  fought,  and  slew  him  manly  as  a  knight 
In  plain  bataille,  and  put  his  folk  to  flight: 
And  by  assault  he  won  the  city  after. 
And  rent  adown  both  wall,  and  spar,  and  rafter; 
And  to  the  ladies  he  restored  again 
The  bodies  of  their  husbands  that  were  slain. 
To  do  obsequies,  as  was  then  the  guise*. 


custom 


But  it  were  all  too  long  for  to  devise*  *describe 

The  greate  clamour,  and  the  waimenting*,  *lamenting 

Which  that  the  ladies  made  at  the  brenning*  *burning 

Of  the  bodies,  and  the  great  honour 

That  Theseus  the  noble  conqueror 

Did  to  the  ladies,  when  they  from  him  went: 

But  shortly  for  to  tell  is  mine  intent. 

When  that  this  worthy  Duke,  this  Theseus, 

Had  Creon  slain,  and  wonnen  Thebes  thus. 

Still  in  the  field  he  took  all  night  his  rest. 

And  did  with  all  the  country  as  him  lest*.  *pleased 

To  ransack  in  the  tas*  of  bodies  dead,  *heap 

Them  for  to  strip  of  *harness  and  of  **weed,  *armour  **clothes 

The  pillers*  did  their  business  and  cure,  *pillagers  <9> 

After  the  battle  and  discomfiture. 

And  so  befell,  that  in  the  tas  they  found. 

Through  girt  with  many  a  grievous  bloody  wound. 

Two  younge  knightes  *ligging  by  and  by*  *tyii^g  side  by  side* 

Both  in  *one  armes*,  wrought  full  richely:  *the  same  armour* 


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33 


*alive 


*born  of  two  sisters* 


Of  whiche  two,  Arcita  hight  that  one. 

And  he  that  other  highte  Palamon. 

Not  fully  quick*,  nor  fully  dead  they  were. 

But  by  their  coat-armour,  and  by  their  gear. 

The  heralds  knew  them  well  in  special. 

As  those  that  weren  of  the  blood  royal 

Of  Thebes,  and  *of  sistren  two  y-born*. 

Out  of  the  tas  the  pillers  have  them  torn. 

And  have  them  carried  soft  unto  the  tent 

Of  Theseus,  and  he  full  soon  them  sent 

To  Athens,  for  to  dwellen  in  prison 

Perpetually,  he  *n'olde  no  ranson*.  *would  take  no  ransom* 

And  when  this  worthy  Duke  had  thus  y-done. 

He  took  his  host,  and  home  he  rit  anon 

With  laurel  crowned  as  a  conquerour; 

And  there  he  lived  in  joy  and  in  honour 

Term  of  his  life;  what  needeth  wordes  mo'? 

And  in  a  tower,  in  anguish  and  in  woe, 

Dwellen  this  Palamon,  and  eke  Arcite, 

For  evermore,  there  may  no  gold  them  quite*  *set  free 


Thus  passed  year  by  year,  and  day  by  day. 
Till  it  fell  ones  in  a  morn  of  May 
That  Emily,  that  fairer  was  to  seen 
Than  is  the  lily  upon  his  stalke  green. 
And  fresher  than  the  May  with  flowers  new 
(For  with  the  rose  colour  strove  her  hue; 
I  n'ot*  which  was  the  finer  of  them  two). 
Ere  it  was  day,  as  she  was  wont  to  do. 
She  was  arisen,  and  all  ready  dight*. 
For  May  will  have  no  sluggardy  a-night; 
The  season  pricketh  every  gentle  heart. 
And  maketh  him  out  of  his  sleep  to  start. 
And  saith,  "Arise,  and  do  thine  observance." 


*know  not 
*dressed 


34 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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35 


This  maketh  Emily  have  remembrance 
To  do  honour  to  May,  and  for  to  rise. 
Y-clothed  was  she  fresh  for  to  devise; 
Her  yellow  hair  was  braided  in  a  tress, 
Behind  her  back,  a  yarde  long  I  guess. 
And  in  the  garden  at  *the  sun  uprist* 
She  walketh  up  and  down  where  as  her  list. 
She  gathereth  flowers,  party*  white  and  red. 
To  make  a  sotel*  garland  for  her  head. 
And  as  an  angel  heavenly  she  sung. 
The  greate  tower,  that  was  so  thick  and  strong. 
Which  of  the  castle  was  the  chief  dungeon<  10  > 
(Where  as  these  knightes  weren  in  prison. 
Of  which  I  tolde  you,  and  telle  shall). 
Was  even  joinant*  to  the  garden  wall. 
There  as  this  Emily  had  her  playing. 

Bright  was  the  sun,  and  clear  that  morrowning. 

And  Palamon,  this  woful  prisoner. 

As  was  his  wont,  by  leave  of  his  gaoler. 

Was  ris'n,  and  roamed  in  a  chamber  on  high. 

In  which  he  all  the  noble  city  sigh*. 

And  eke  the  garden,  full  of  branches  green. 

There  as  this  fresh  Emelia  the  sheen 

Was  in  her  walk,  and  roamed  up  and  down. 

This  sorrowful  prisoner,  this  Palamon 

Went  in  his  chamber  roaming  to  and  fro. 

And  to  himself  complaining  of  his  woe: 

That  he  was  born,  full  oft  he  said,  Alas! 

And  so  befell,  by  aventure  or  cas*. 

That  through  a  window  thick  of  many  a  bar 

Of  iron  great,  and  square  as  any  spar. 

He  cast  his  eyes  upon  Emelia, 


*mingled 
subtle,  well-arranged 


*adjoining 


*chance 


And  therewithal  he  blent*  and  cried.  Ah! 
As  though  he  stungen  were  unto  the  heart. 
And  with  that  cry  Arcite  anon  up  start. 
And  saide,  "Cousin  mine,  what  aileth  thee. 
That  art  so  pale  and  deadly  for  to  see? 
Why  cried'st  thou?  who  hath  thee  done  offence? 
For  Godde's  love,  take  all  in  patience 
Our  prison*,  for  it  may  none  other  be. 
Fortune  hath  giv'n  us  this  adversity'. 
Some  wick'*  aspect  or  disposition 
Of  Saturn<  1 1  > ,  by  some  constellation. 
Hath  giv'n  us  this,  although  we  had  it  sworn. 
So  stood  the  heaven  when  that  we  were  born. 
We  must  endure;  this  is  the  short  and  plain. 

This  Palamon  answer'd,  and  said  again: 

"Cousin,  forsooth  of  this  opinion 

Thou  hast  a  vain  imagination. 

This  prison  caused  me  not  for  to  cry; 

But  I  was  hurt  right  now  thorough  mine  eye 

Into  mine  heart;  that  will  my  bane*  be. 

The  fairness  of  the  lady  that  I  see 

Yond  in  the  garden  roaming  to  and  fro. 

Is  cause  of  all  my  crying  and  my  woe. 

I  *n'ot  wher*  she  be  woman  or  goddess. 

But  Venus  is  it,  soothly*  as  I  guess. 

And  therewithal  on  knees  adown  he  fill. 

And  saide:  "Venus,  if  it  be  your  will 

You  in  this  garden  thus  to  transfigure 

Before  me  sorrowful  wretched  creature. 

Out  of  this  prison  help  that  we  may  scape. 

And  if  so  be  our  destiny  be  shape 

By  etern  word  to  dien  in  prison. 

Of  our  lineage  have  some  compassion. 


*started  aside 


imprisonment 


icked 


*destruction 


*know  not  whether* 
*truly 


36 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  is  so  low  y-brought  by  tyranny." 


And  with  that  word  Arcita  *gan  espy*  *began  to  look  forth* 

Where  as  this  lady  roamed  to  and  fro 

And  with  that  sight  her  beauty  hurt  him  so, 

That  if  that  Palamon  was  wounded  sore, 

Arcite  is  hurt  as  much  as  he,  or  more. 

And  with  a  sigh  he  saide  piteously: 

"The  freshe  beauty  slay'th  me  suddenly 

Of  her  that  roameth  yonder  in  the  place. 

And  but*  I  have  her  mercy  and  her  grace,  *unless 

That  I  may  see  her  at  the  leaste  way, 

I  am  but  dead;  there  is  no  more  to  say." 

This  Palamon,  when  he  these  wordes  heard, 

Dispiteously*  he  looked,  and  answer'd:  *angrily 

"Whether  say'st  thou  this  in  earnest  or  in  play?" 

"Nay,"  quoth  Arcite,  "in  earnest,  by  my  fay*.  *faith 

God  help  me  so,  *me  lust  full  ill  to  play*."  *I  am  in  no  humour 

This  Palamon  gan  knit  his  browes  tway.  for  jesting* 

"It  were,"  quoth  he,  "to  thee  no  great  honour 

For  to  be  false,  nor  for  to  be  traitour 

To  me,  that  am  thy  cousin  and  thy  brother 

Y-sworn  full  deep,  and  each  of  us  to  other. 

That  never  for  to  dien  in  the  pain  <12>, 

Till  that  the  death  departen  shall  us  twain. 

Neither  of  us  in  love  to  hinder  other. 

Nor  in  none  other  case,  my  leve*  brother;  *dear 

But  that  thou  shouldest  truly  farther  me 

In  every  case,  as  I  should  farther  thee. 

This  was  thine  oath,  and  mine  also  certain; 

I  wot  it  well,  thou  dar'st  it  not  withsayn*,  *deny 

Thus  art  thou  of  my  counsel  out  of  doubt. 

And  now  thou  wouldest  falsely  be  about 

To  love  my  lady,  whom  I  love  and  serve, 


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And  ever  shall,  until  mine  hearte  sterve* 
Now  certes,  false  Arcite,  thou  shalt  not  so 
I  lov'd  her  first,  and  tolde  thee  my  woe 
As  to  my  counsel,  and  my  brother  sworn 
To  farther  me,  as  I  have  told  beforn. 
For  which  thou  art  y-bounden  as  a  knight 
To  helpe  me,  if  it  lie  in  thy  might. 
Or  elles  art  thou  false,  I  dare  well  sayn," 


37 


*die 


This  Arcita  full  proudly  spake  again: 

"Thou  shalt,"  quoth  he,  "be  rather*  false  than  I,  *sooner 

And  thou  art  false,  I  tell  thee  utterly; 

For  par  amour  I  lov'd  her  first  ere  thou. 

What  wilt  thou  say?  *thou  wist  it  not  right  now*  *even  now  thou 

Whether  she  be  a  woman  or  goddess.  knowest  not* 

Thine  is  affection  of  holiness. 

And  mine  is  love,  as  to  a  creature: 

For  which  I  tolde  thee  mine  aventure 

As  to  my  cousin,  and  my  brother  sworn 

I  pose*,  that  thou  loved'st  her  beforn:  *suppose 

Wost*  thou  not  well  the  olde  clerke's  saw<  13  >,  *know'st 

That  who  shall  give  a  lover  any  law? 

Love  is  a  greater  lawe,  by  my  pan. 

Than  maybe  giv'n  to  any  earthly  man: 

Therefore  positive  law,  and  such  decree. 

Is  broke  alway  for  love  in  each  degree 

A  man  must  needes  love,  maugre  his  head. 

He  may  not  flee  it,  though  he  should  be  dead, 

*A11  be  she*  maid,  or  widow,  or  else  wife.  *whether  she  be* 

And  eke  it  is  not  likely  all  thy  life 

To  standen  in  her  grace,  no  more  than  I 

For  well  thou  wost  thyselfe  verily. 

That  thou  and  I  be  damned  to  prison 

Perpetual,  us  gaineth  no  ranson. 


38 


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We  strive,  as  did  the  houndes  for  the  bone; 
They  fought  all  day,  and  yet  their  part  was  none. 
There  came  a  kite,  while  that  they  were  so  wroth. 
And  bare  away  the  bone  betwixt  them  both. 
And  therefore  at  the  kinge's  court,  my  brother. 
Each  man  for  himselfe,  there  is  no  other. 
Love  if  thee  list;  for  I  love  and  aye  shall 
And  soothly,  leve  brother,  this  is  all. 
Here  in  this  prison  musten  we  endure. 
And  each  of  us  take  his  Aventure." 

Great  was  the  strife  and  long  between  these  tway. 

If  that  I  hadde  leisure  for  to  say; 

But  to  the  effect:  it  happen'd  on  a  day 

(To  tell  it  you  as  shortly  as  I  may), 

A  worthy  duke  that  hight  Perithous<  14> 

That  fellow  was  to  the  Duke  Theseus 

Since  thilke*  day  that  they  were  children  lite** 

Was  come  to  Athens,  his  fellow  to  visite. 

And  for  to  play,  as  he  was  wont  to  do; 

For  in  this  world  he  loved  no  man  so; 

And  he  lov'd  him  as  tenderly  again. 

So  well  they  lov'd,  as  olde  bookes  sayn. 

That  when  that  one  was  dead,  soothly  to  sayn. 

His  fellow  went  and  sought  him  down  in  hell: 

But  of  that  story  list  me  not  to  write. 

Duke  Perithous  loved  well  Arcite, 

And  had  him  known  at  Thebes  year  by  year: 

And  fmally  at  request  and  prayere 

Of  Perithous,  withoute  ranson 

Duke  Theseus  him  let  out  of  prison. 

Freely  to  go,  where  him  list  over  all. 

In  such  a  guise,  as  I  you  tellen  shall 

This  was  the  forword*,  plainly  to  indite. 


*that  **little 


promise 


Betwixte  Theseus  and  him  Arcite: 

That  if  so  were,  that  Arcite  were  y- found 

Ever  in  his  life,  by  day  or  night,  one  stound* 

In  any  country  of  this  Theseus, 

And  he  were  caught,  it  was  accorded  thus. 

That  with  a  sword  he  shoulde  lose  his  head; 

There  was  none  other  remedy  nor  rede*. 

But  took  his  leave,  and  homeward  he  him  sped; 

Let  him  beware,  his  necke  lieth  *to  wed*. 

How  great  a  sorrow  suff 'reth  now  Arcite! 

The  death  he  feeleth  through  his  hearte  smite; 

He  weepeth,  waileth,  crieth  piteously; 

To  slay  himself  he  waiteth  privily. 

He  said;  "Alas  the  day  that  I  was  born! 

Now  is  my  prison  worse  than  beforn: 

*Now  is  me  shape*  eternally  to  dwell  * 

Not  in  purgatory,  but  right  in  hell. 

Alas!  that  ever  I  knew  Perithous. 

For  elles  had  I  dwelt  with  Theseus 

Y-fettered  in  his  prison  evermo'. 

Then  had  I  been  in  bliss,  and  not  in  woe. 

Only  the  sight  of  her,  whom  that  I  serve. 

Though  that  I  never  may  her  grace  deserve. 

Would  have  sufficed  right  enough  for  me. 

O  deare  cousin  Palamon,"  quoth  he, 

"Thine  is  the  vict'ry  of  this  aventure. 

Full  blissfully  in  prison  to  endure: 

In  prison?  nay  certes,  in  paradise. 

Well  hath  fortune  y-turned  thee  the  dice. 

That  hast  the  sight  of  her,  and  I  th'  absence. 

For  possible  is,  since  thou  hast  her  presence. 

And  art  a  knight,  a  worthy  and  an  able. 

That  by  some  cas*,  since  fortune  is  changeable. 


*moment<15> 


*counsel 


*in  pledge* 


it  is  fixed  for  me* 


*chance 


40 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Thou  may  St  to  thy  desire  sometime  attain. 
But  I  that  am  exiled,  and  barren 
Of  alle  grace,  and  in  so  great  despair. 
That  there  n'is  earthe,  water,  fire,  nor  air. 
Nor  creature,  that  of  them  maked  is. 
That  may  me  helpe  nor  comfort  in  this. 
Well  ought  I  *sterve  in  wanhope*  and  distress. 
Farewell  my  life,  my  lust*,  and  my  gladness. 
Alas,  *why  plainen  men  so  in  commune 
Of  purveyance  of  God*,  or  of  Fortune, 
That  giveth  them  full  oft  in  many  a  guise 
Well  better  than  they  can  themselves  devise? 
Some  man  desireth  for  to  have  richess. 
That  cause  is  of  his  murder  or  great  sickness. 
And  some  man  would  out  of  his  prison  fain. 
That  in  his  house  is  of  his  meinie*  slain. 
Infmite  harmes  be  in  this  mattere. 
We  wot  never  what  thing  we  pray  for  here. 
We  fare  as  he  that  drunk  is  as  a  mouse. 
A  drunken  man  wot  well  he  hath  an  house. 
But  he  wot  not  which  is  the  right  way  thither. 
And  to  a  drunken  man  the  way  is  slither*. 
And  certes  in  this  world  so  fare  we. 
We  seeke  fast  after  felicity. 
But  we  go  wrong  full  often  truely. 
Thus  we  may  sayen  all,  and  namely*  I, 
That  ween'd*,  and  had  a  great  opinion. 
That  if  I  might  escape  from  prison 
Then  had  I  been  in  joy  and  perfect  heal. 
Where  now  I  am  exiled  from  my  weal. 
Since  that  I  may  not  see  you,  Emily, 
I  am  but  dead;  there  is  no  remedy." 


*die  in  despair* 
*pleasure 
why  do  men  so  often  complain 
of  God's  providence?* 


*servants  <16> 


*slippery 


*especially 
*thought 


Upon  that  other  side,  Palamon, 


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When  that  he  wist  Arcita  was  agone. 

Much  sorrow  maketh,  that  the  greate  tower 

Resounded  of  his  yelling  and  clamour 

The  pure*  fetters  on  his  shinnes  great  *very  <  17> 

Were  of  his  bitter  salte  teares  wet. 


41 


"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "Arcita,  cousin  mine. 

Of  all  our  strife,  God  wot,  the  fruit  is  thine. 

Thou  walkest  now  in  Thebes  at  thy  large. 

And  of  my  woe  thou  *givest  little  charge*.  *takest  little  heed* 

Thou  mayst,  since  thou  hast  wisdom  and  manhead*,       *manhood,  courage 

Assemble  all  the  folk  of  our  kindred. 

And  make  a  war  so  sharp  on  this  country 

That  by  some  aventure,  or  some  treaty. 

Thou  mayst  have  her  to  lady  and  to  wife. 

For  whom  that  I  must  needes  lose  my  life. 

For  as  byway  of  possibility. 

Since  thou  art  at  thy  large,  of  prison  free. 

And  art  a  lord,  great  is  thine  avantage. 

More  than  is  mine,  that  sterve  here  in  a  cage. 

For  I  must  weep  and  wail,  while  that  I  live. 

With  all  the  woe  that  prison  may  me  give. 

And  eke  with  pain  that  love  me  gives  also. 

That  doubles  all  my  torment  and  my  woe." 


Therewith  the  fire  of  jealousy  upstart 

Within  his  breast,  and  hent*  him  by  the  heart  *seized 

So  woodly*,  that  he  like  was  to  behold  *madly 

The  box-tree,  or  the  ashes  dead  and  cold. 

Then  said;  "O  cruel  goddess,  that  govern 

This  world  with  binding  of  your  word  etern*  *eternal 

And  writen  in  the  table  of  adamant 

Your  parlement*  and  your  eternal  grant,  *consultation 

What  is  mankind  more  *unto  you  y-hold*  *by  you  esteemed 


42 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Than  is  the  sheep,  that  rouketh*  in  the  fold!      *lie  huddled  together 

For  slain  is  man,  right  as  another  beast; 

And  dwelleth  eke  in  prison  and  arrest. 

And  hath  sickness,  and  great  adversity. 

And  oftentimes  guilteless,  pardie*  *by  God 

What  governance  is  in  your  prescience. 

That  guilteless  tormenteth  innocence? 

And  yet  increaseth  this  all  my  penance. 

That  man  is  bounden  to  his  observance 

For  Godde's  sake  to  *letten  of  his  will*,         *restrain  his  desire* 

Whereas  a  beast  may  all  his  lust  fulfd. 

And  when  a  beast  is  dead,  he  hath  no  pain; 

But  man  after  his  death  must  weep  and  plain. 

Though  in  this  worlde  he  have  care  and  woe: 

Withoute  doubt  it  maye  standen  so. 

"The  answer  of  this  leave  I  to  divines. 

But  well  I  wot,  that  in  this  world  great  pine*  is;         *pain,  trouble 

Alas!  I  see  a  serpent  or  a  thief 

That  many  a  true  man  hath  done  mischief. 

Go  at  his  large,  and  where  him  list  may  turn. 

But  I  must  be  in  prison  through  Saturn, 

And  eke  through  Juno,  jealous  and  eke  wood*,  *mad 

That  hath  well  nigh  destroyed  all  the  blood 

Of  Thebes,  with  his  waste  walles  wide. 

And  Venus  slay'th  me  on  that  other  side 

For  jealousy,  and  fear  of  him,  Arcite." 


Now  will  I  stent*  of  Palamon  a  lite**. 

And  let  him  in  his  prison  stille  dwell. 

And  of  Arcita  forth  I  will  you  tell. 

The  summer  passeth,  and  the  nightes  long 

Increase  double-wise  the  paines  strong 

Both  of  the  lover  and  the  prisonere. 

I  n'ot*  which  hath  the  wofuller  mistere**. 


*pause  **little 


*know  not  **condition 


*on  peril  of  his  head* 


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For,  shortly  for  to  say,  this  Palamon 
Perpetually  is  damned  to  prison. 
In  chaines  and  in  fetters  to  be  dead; 
And  Arcite  is  exiled  *on  his  head* 
For  evermore  as  out  of  that  country. 
Nor  never  more  he  shall  his  lady  see. 
You  lovers  ask  I  now  this  question,  <  1 8  > 
Who  lieth  the  worse,  Arcite  or  Palamon? 
The  one  may  see  his  lady  day  by  day. 
But  in  prison  he  dwelle  must  alway 
The  other  where  him  list  may  ride  or  go. 
But  see  his  lady  shall  he  never  mo'. 
Now  deem  all  as  you  liste,  ye  that  can. 
For  I  will  tell  you  forth  as  I  began. 


43 


taken  away  from  him* 
*became 


When  that  Arcite  to  Thebes  comen  was. 

Full  oft  a  day  he  swelt*,  and  said,  "Alas!"  *fainted 

For  see  this  lady  he  shall  never  mo'. 

And  shortly  to  concluden  all  his  woe. 

So  much  sorrow  had  never  creature 

That  is  or  shall  be  while  the  world  may  dure. 

His  sleep,  his  meat,  his  drink  is  *him  byraft*. 

That  lean  he  wex*,  and  dry  as  any  shaft. 

His  eyen  hollow,  grisly  to  behold. 

His  hue  sallow,  and  pale  as  ashes  cold. 

And  solitary  he  was,  ever  alone. 

And  wailing  all  the  night,  making  his  moan. 

And  if  he  hearde  song  or  instrument. 

Then  would  he  weepen,  he  might  not  be  stent*.  *stopped 

So  feeble  were  his  spirits,  and  so  low. 

And  changed  so,  that  no  man  coulde  know 

His  speech,  neither  his  voice,  though  men  it  heard. 

And  in  his  gear*  for  all  the  world  he  far'd  *behaviour  <  19> 

Not  only  like  the  lovers'  malady 


44 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*madness 


*Lord<21> 


*rod  <22> 


notice 


Of  Eros,  but  rather  y-like  manie* 

Engender 'd  of  humours  melancholic, 

Before  his  head  in  his  cell  fantastic.  < 20 > 

And  shortly  turned  was  all  upside  down. 

Both  habit  and  eke  dispositioun. 

Of  him,  this  woful  lover  Dan*  Arcite. 

Why  should  I  all  day  of  his  woe  indite? 

When  he  endured  had  a  year  or  two 

This  cruel  torment,  and  this  pain  and  woe. 

At  Thebes,  in  his  country,  as  I  said. 

Upon  a  night  in  sleep  as  he  him  laid. 

Him  thought  how  that  the  winged  god  Mercury 

Before  him  stood,  and  bade  him  to  be  merry. 

His  sleepy  yard*  in  hand  he  bare  upright; 

A  hat  he  wore  upon  his  haires  bright. 

Arrayed  was  this  god  (as  he  took  keep*) 

As  he  was  when  that  Argus<23  >  took  his  sleep; 

And  said  him  thus:  "To  Athens  shalt  thou  wend*;  *go 

There  is  thee  shapen*  of  thy  woe  an  end."  *fixed,  prepared 

And  with  that  word  Arcite  woke  and  start. 

"Now  truely  how  sore  that  e'er  me  smart," 

Quoth  he,  "to  Athens  right  now  will  I  fare. 

Nor  for  no  dread  of  death  shall  I  not  spare 

To  see  my  lady  that  I  love  and  serve; 

In  her  presence  *I  recke  not  to  sterve.*"  *do  not  care  if  I  die* 

And  with  that  word  he  caught  a  great  mirror. 

And  saw  that  changed  was  all  his  colour. 

And  saw  his  visage  all  in  other  kind. 

And  right  anon  it  ran  him  ill  his  mind. 

That  since  his  face  was  so  disfigur'd 

Of  malady  the  which  he  had  endur'd. 

He  mighte  well,  if  that  he  *bare  him  low,*      *lived  in  lowly  fashion* 

Live  in  Athenes  evermore  unknow. 

And  see  his  lady  wellnigh  day  by  day. 


secrets  **fortune 


*nearest  <24> 


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And  right  anon  he  changed  his  array. 

And  clad  him  as  a  poore  labourer. 

And  all  alone,  save  only  a  squier. 

That  knew  his  privity*  and  all  his  cas**. 

Which  was  disguised  poorly  as  he  was. 

To  Athens  is  he  gone  the  nexte*  way. 

And  to  the  court  he  went  upon  a  day. 

And  at  the  gate  he  proffer'd  his  service. 

To  drudge  and  draw,  what  so  men  would  devise^ 

And,  shortly  of  this  matter  for  to  sayn. 

He  fell  in  office  with  a  chamberlain. 

The  which  that  dwelling  was  with  Emily. 

For  he  was  wise,  and  coulde  soon  espy 

Of  every  servant  which  that  served  her. 

Well  could  he  hewe  wood,  and  water  bear. 

For  he  was  young  and  mighty  for  the  nones*. 

And  thereto  he  was  strong  and  big  of  bones 

To  do  that  any  wight  can  him  devise. 


45 


*order 


A  year  or  two  he  was  in  this  service. 

Page  of  the  chamber  of  Emily  the  bright; 

And  Philostrate  he  saide  that  he  hight. 

But  half  so  well  belov'd  a  man  as  he 

Ne  was  there  never  in  court  of  his  degree. 

He  was  so  gentle  of  conditioun. 

That  throughout  all  the  court  was  his  renown. 

They  saide  that  it  were  a  charity 

That  Theseus  would  *enhance  his  degree*. 

And  put  him  in  some  worshipful  service. 

There  as  he  might  his  virtue  exercise. 

And  thus  within  a  while  his  name  sprung 

Both  of  his  deedes,  and  of  his  good  tongue. 

That  Theseus  hath  taken  him  so  near. 

That  of  his  chamber  he  hath  made  him  squire. 


*elevate  him  in  rank* 


46 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  gave  him  gold  to  maintain  his  degree; 

And  eke  men  brought  him  out  of  his  country 

From  year  to  year  full  privily  his  rent. 

But  honestly  and  slyly*  he  it  spent,  *discreetly,  prudently 

That  no  man  wonder'd  how  that  he  it  had. 

And  three  year  in  this  wise  his  life  be  lad*,  *led 

And  bare  him  so  in  peace  and  eke  in  werre*,  *war 

There  was  no  man  that  Theseus  had  so  derre*.  *dear 

And  in  this  blisse  leave  I  now  Arcite, 

And  speak  I  will  of  Palamon  a  lite*.  *little 


In  darkness  horrible,  and  strong  prison. 
This  seven  year  hath  sitten  Palamon, 
Forpined*,  what  for  love,  and  for  distress. 
Who  feeleth  double  sorrow  and  heaviness 
But  Palamon?  that  love  distraineth*  so. 
That  wood*  out  of  his  wits  he  went  for  woe. 
And  eke  thereto  he  is  a  prisonere 
Perpetual,  not  only  for  a  year. 
Who  coulde  rhyme  in  English  properly 
His  martyrdom?  forsooth*,  it  is  not  I; 
Therefore  I  pass  as  lightly  as  I  may. 
It  fell  that  in  the  seventh  year,  in  May 
The  thirde  night  (as  olde  bookes  sayn. 
That  all  this  story  tellen  more  plain). 
Were  it  by  a  venture  or  destiny 
(As  when  a  thing  is  shapen*  it  shall  be). 
That  soon  after  the  midnight,  Palamon 
By  helping  of  a  friend  brake  his  prison. 
And  fled  the  city  fast  as  he  might  go. 
For  he  had  given  drink  his  gaoler  so 
Of  a  clary  <25>,  made  of  a  certain  wine. 
With  *narcotise  and  opie*  of  Thebes  fme. 


*pined,  wasted  away 

*afflicts 

*mad 


*truly 


*settled,  decreed 


*narcotics  and  opium* 


That  all  the  night,  though  that  men  would  him  shake. 


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The  gaoler  slept,  he  mighte  not  awake: 

And  thus  he  fled  as  fast  as  ever  he  may. 

The  night  was  short,  and  *faste  by  the  day  *close  at  hand  was 

That  needes  cast  he  must  himself  to  hide*.  the  day  during  which 

And  to  a  grove  faste  there  beside        he  must  cast  about,  or  contrive. 


With  dreadful  foot  then  stalked  Palamon. 

For  shortly  this  was  his  opinion. 

That  in  the  grove  he  would  him  hide  all  day. 

And  in  the  night  then  would  he  take  his  way 

To  Thebes -ward,  his  friendes  for  to  pray 

On  Theseus  to  help  him  to  warray*. 

And  shortly  either  he  would  lose  his  life. 

Or  winnen  Emily  unto  his  wife. 

This  is  th'  effect,  and  his  intention  plain. 


to  conceal  himself.* 


*make  war  <26> 


Now  will  I  turn  to  Arcita  again. 
That  little  wist  how  nighe  was  his  care. 
Till  that  Fortune  had  brought  him  in  the  snare. 
The  busy  lark,  the  messenger  of  day, 
Saluteth  in  her  song  the  morning  gray; 
And  fiery  Phoebus  riseth  up  so  bright. 
That  all  the  orient  laugheth  at  the  sight. 
And  with  his  streames*  drieth  in  the  greves** 
The  silver  droppes,  hanging  on  the  leaves; 
And  Arcite,  that  is  in  the  court  royal 
With  Theseus,  his  squier  principal. 
Is  ris'n,  and  looketh  on  the  merry  day. 
And  for  to  do  his  observance  to  May, 
Remembering  the  point*  of  his  desire. 
He  on  his  courser,  starting  as  the  fire. 
Is  ridden  to  the  fieldes  him  to  play. 
Out  of  the  court,  were  it  a  mile  or  tway. 
And  to  the  grove,  of  which  I  have  you  told. 
By  a  venture  his  way  began  to  hold. 


rays     groves 


*object 


48 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


To  make  him  a  garland  of  the  greves*,  *groves 

Were  it  of  woodbine,  or  of  hawthorn  leaves, 

And  loud  he  sang  against  the  sun  so  sheen*.  *shining  bright 

"O  May,  with  all  thy  flowers  and  thy  green. 

Right  welcome  be  thou,  faire  freshe  May, 

I  hope  that  I  some  green  here  getten  may" 

And  from  his  courser*,  with  a  lusty  heart,  *horse 

Into  the  grove  full  hastily  he  start. 

And  in  a  path  he  roamed  up  and  down. 

There  as  by  aventure  this  Palamon 

Was  in  a  bush,  that  no  man  might  him  see. 

For  sore  afeard  of  his  death  was  he. 

Nothing  ne  knew  he  that  it  was  Arcite; 

God  wot  he  would  have  *trowed  it  full  lite*.    *full  little  believed  it* 

But  sooth  is  said,  gone  since  full  many  years. 

The  field  hath  eyen*,  and  the  wood  hath  ears,  *eyes 

It  is  full  fair  a  man  *to  bear  him  even*,  *to  be  on  his  guard* 

For  all  day  meeten  men  at  *unset  Steven*.  *unexpected  time  <27> 

Full  little  wot  Arcite  of  his  fellaw. 

That  was  so  nigh  to  hearken  of  his  saw*,  *saying,  speech 

For  in  the  bush  he  sitteth  now  full  still. 

When  that  Arcite  had  roamed  all  his  fill. 

And  *sungen  all  the  roundel*  lustily,  *sang  the  roundelay*<28> 

Into  a  study  he  fell  suddenly. 

As  do  those  lovers  in  their  *quainte  gears*,  *odd  fashions* 

Now  in  the  crop*,  and  now  down  in  the  breres**,  <29>  *tree-top 

Now  up,  now  down,  as  bucket  in  a  well.  **briars 

Right  as  the  Friday,  soothly  for  to  tell. 

Now  shineth  it,  and  now  it  raineth  fast. 

Right  so  can  geary*  Venus  overcast  *changeful 

The  heartes  of  her  folk,  right  as  her  day 

Is  gearful*,  right  so  changeth  she  array.  *changeful 

Seldom  is  Friday  all  the  weeke  like. 

When  Arcite  had  y-sung,  he  gan  to  sike*,  *sigh 


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49 


And  sat  him  down  withouten  any  more: 

"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "the  day  that  I  was  bore! 

How  longe,  Juno,  through  thy  cruelty 

Wilt  thou  warrayen*  Thebes  the  city?  *torment 

Alas!  y-brought  is  to  confusion 

The  blood  royal  of  Cadm'  and  Amphion: 

Of  Cadmus,  which  that  was  the  firste  man. 

That  Thebes  built,  or  first  the  town  began. 

And  of  the  city  first  was  crowned  king. 

Of  his  lineage  am  I,  and  his  offspring 

By  very  line,  as  of  the  stock  royal; 

And  now  I  am  *so  caitiff  and  so  thrall*. 

That  he  that  is  my  mortal  enemy, 

I  serve  him  as  his  squier  poorely. 

And  yet  doth  Juno  me  well  more  shame. 

For  I  dare  not  beknow*  mine  owen  name. 

But  there  as  I  was  wont  to  hight  Arcite, 

Now  hight  I  Philostrate,  not  worth  a  mite. 

Alas!  thou  fell  Mars,  and  alas!  Juno, 

Thus  hath  your  ire  our  lineage  all  fordo* 

Save  only  me,  and  wretched  Palamon, 

That  Theseus  martyreth  in  prison. 

And  over  all  this,  to  slay  me  utterly. 

Love  hath  his  fiery  dart  so  brenningly*  *burningly 

Y-sticked  through  my  true  careful  heart. 

That  shapen  was  my  death  erst  than  my  shert.  <31  > 

Ye  slay  me  with  your  eyen,  Emily; 

Ye  be  the  cause  wherefore  that  I  die. 

Of  all  the  remnant  of  mine  other  care 

Ne  set  I  not  the  *mountance  of  a  tare*,  *value  of  a  straw* 

So  that  I  could  do  aught  to  your  pleasance." 


*wretched  and  enslaved* 


*acknowledge  <30> 


*undone,  ruined 


And  with  that  word  he  fell  down  in  a  trance 
A  longe  time;  and  afterward  upstart 


50 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


This  Palamon,  that  thought  thorough  his  heart 

He  felt  a  cold  sword  suddenly  to  glide: 

For  ire  he  quoke*,  no  longer  would  he  hide. 

And  when  that  he  had  heard  Arcite's  tale, 

As  he  were  wood*,  with  face  dead  and  pale. 

He  start  him  up  out  of  the  bushes  thick. 

And  said:  "False  Arcita,  false  traitor  wick'*. 

Now  art  thou  hent*,  that  lov'st  my  lady  so. 

For  whom  that  I  have  all  this  pain  and  woe. 

And  art  my  blood,  and  to  my  counsel  sworn. 

As  I  full  oft  have  told  thee  herebeforn. 

And  hast  bejaped*  here  Duke  Theseus,  * 

And  falsely  changed  hast  thy  name  thus; 

I  will  be  dead,  or  elles  thou  shalt  die. 

Thou  shalt  not  love  my  lady  Emily, 

But  I  will  love  her  only  and  no  mo'; 

For  I  am  Palamon  thy  mortal  foe. 

And  though  I  have  no  weapon  in  this  place. 

But  out  of  prison  am  astart*  by  grace, 

I  dreade*  not  that  either  thou  shalt  die. 

Or  else  thou  shalt  not  loven  Emily. 

Choose  which  thou  wilt,  for  thou  shalt  not  astart. 


*quaked 

*mad 

*wicked 
*caught 


^deceived,  imposed  upon 


*escaped 
*doubt 


This  Arcite  then,  with  full  dispiteous*  heart. 

When  he  him  knew,  and  had  his  tale  heard. 

As  fierce  as  lion  pulled  out  a  swerd. 

And  saide  thus;  "By  God  that  sitt'th  above, 

*N'ere  it*  that  thou  art  sick,  and  wood  for  love. 

And  eke  that  thou  no  weap'n  hast  in  this  place. 

Thou  should'st  never  out  of  this  grove  pace. 

That  thou  ne  shouldest  dien  of  mine  hand. 

For  I  defy  the  surety  and  the  band. 

Which  that  thou  sayest  I  have  made  to  thee. 

What?  very  fool,  think  well  that  love  is  free; 


*wrathful 


were  it  not 


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51 


And  I  will  love  her  maugre*  all  thy  might. 
But,  for  thou  art  a  worthy  gentle  knight. 
And  *wilnest  to  darraine  her  by  bataille*. 
Have  here  my  troth,  to-morrow  I  will  not  fail. 
Without  weeting*  of  any  other  wight. 
That  here  I  will  be  founden  as  a  knight. 
And  bringe  harness*  right  enough  for  thee; 
And  choose  the  best,  and  leave  the  worst  for  me. 
And  meat  and  drinke  this  night  will  I  bring 
Enough  for  thee,  and  clothes  for  thy  bedding. 
And  if  so  be  that  thou  my  lady  win. 
And  slay  me  in  this  wood  that  I  am  in. 
Thou  may'st  well  have  thy  lady  as  for  me." 
This  Palamon  answer'd,  "I  grant  it  thee." 
And  thus  they  be  departed  till  the  morrow. 
When  each  of  them  hath  *laid  his  faith  to  borrow' 


*despite 

Will  reclaim  her 

by  combat* 
*knowledge 

*armour  and  arms 


*pledged  his  faith* 


O  Cupid,  out  of  alle  charity! 
O  Regne*  that  wilt  no  fellow  have  with  thee! 
Full  sooth  is  said,  that  love  nor  lordeship 
Will  not,  *his  thanks*,  have  any  fellowship. 
Well  finden  that  Arcite  and  Palamon. 
Arcite  is  ridd  anon  unto  the  town. 
And  on  the  morrow,  ere  it  were  daylight. 
Full  privily  two  harness  hath  he  dight*. 
Both  suffisant  and  meete  to  darraine* 
The  battle  in  the  field  betwixt  them  twain. 
And  on  his  horse,  alone  as  he  was  born. 
He  carrieth  all  this  harness  him  beforn; 
And  in  the  grove,  at  time  and  place  y-set. 
This  Arcite  and  this  Palamon  be  met. 
Then  change  gan  the  colour  of  their  face; 
Right  as  the  hunter  in  the  regne*  of  Thrace 
That  standeth  at  a  gappe  with  a  spear 


*queen  <32> 
*thanks  to  him* 


*prepared 
*contest 


*kingdom 


52 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


When  hunted  is  the  lion  or  the  bear, 
And  heareth  him  come  rushing  in  the  greves*, 
And  breaking  both  the  boughes  and  the  leaves, 
Thinketh,  "Here  comes  my  mortal  enemy, 
Withoute  fail,  he  must  be  dead  or  I; 
For  either  I  must  slay  him  at  the  gap; 
Or  he  must  slay  me,  if  that  me  mishap:" 
So  fared  they,  in  changing  of  their  hue 
*As  far  as  either  of  them  other  knew*. 
There  was  no  good  day,  and  no  saluting. 
But  straight,  withoute  wordes  rehearsing, 
Evereach  of  them  holp  to  arm  the  other. 
As  friendly,  as  he  were  his  owen  brother. 
And  after  that,  with  sharpe  speares  strong 
They  foined*  each  at  other  wonder  long. 
Thou  mightest  weene*,  that  this  Palamon 
In  fighting  were  as  a  wood*  lion. 
And  as  a  cruel  tiger  was  Arcite: 
As  wilde  boars  gan  they  together  smite. 
That  froth  as  white  as  foam,  *for  ire  wood' 
Up  to  the  ancle  fought  they  in  their  blood. 
And  in  this  wise  I  let  them  fighting  dwell. 
And  forth  I  will  of  Theseus  you  tell. 


groves 


When  they  recognised  each 
other  afar  ofP 


*thrust 
*think 
*mad 


*mad  with  anger* 


The  Destiny,  minister  general. 

That  executeth  in  the  world  o'er  all 

The  purveyance*,  that  God  hath  seen  beforn; 

So  strong  it  is,  that  though  the  world  had  sworn 

The  contrary  of  a  thing  by  yea  or  nay. 

Yet  some  time  it  shall  fallen  on  a  day 

That  falleth  not  eft*  in  a  thousand  year. 

For  certainly  our  appetites  here. 

Be  it  of  war,  or  peace,  or  hate,  or  love. 

All  is  this  ruled  by  the  sight*  above.  *eye,  intelligence,  power 


*foreordination 


again 


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53 


This  mean  I  now  by  mighty  Theseus, 

That  for  to  hunten  is  so  desirous  — 

And  namely*  the  greate  hart  in  May  — 

That  in  his  bed  there  dawneth  him  no  day 

That  he  n'is  clad,  and  ready  for  to  ride 

With  hunt  and  horn,  and  houndes  him  beside. 

For  in  his  hunting  hath  he  such  delight. 

That  it  is  all  his  joy  and  appetite 

To  be  himself  the  greate  harte's  bane* 

For  after  Mars  he  serveth  now  Diane. 

Clear  was  the  day,  as  I  have  told  ere  this. 

And  Theseus,  with  alle  joy  and  bliss. 

With  his  Hippolyta,  the  faire  queen. 

And  Emily,  y-clothed  all  in  green. 

On  hunting  be  they  ridden  royally. 

And  to  the  grove,  that  stood  there  faste  by. 

In  which  there  was  an  hart,  as  men  him  told, 

Duke  Theseus  the  straighte  way  doth  hold. 

And  to  the  laund*  he  rideth  him  full  right. 

There  was  the  hart  y-wont  to  have  his  flight. 

And  over  a  brook,  and  so  forth  on  his  way. 

This  Duke  will  have  a  course  at  him  or  tway 

With  houndes,  such  as  him  lust*  to  command. 

And  when  this  Duke  was  come  to  the  laund. 

Under  the  sun  he  looked,  and  anon 

He  was  ware  of  Arcite  and  Palamon, 

That  foughte  breme*,  as  it  were  bulles  two. 

The  brighte  swordes  wente  to  and  fro 

So  hideously,  that  with  the  leaste  stroke 

It  seemed  that  it  woulde  fell  an  oak. 

But  what  they  were,  nothing  yet  he  wote*. 

This  Duke  his  courser  with  his  spurres  smote, 

*And  at  a  start*  he  was  betwixt  them  two. 

And  pulled  out  a  sword  and  cried,  "Ho! 


*especially 


*destruction 


*plain  <33> 

*pleased 

*fiercely 

*knew 
*suddenly* 


54 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


No  more,  on  pain  of  losing  of  your  head. 

By  mighty  Mars,  he  shall  anon  be  dead 

That  smiteth  any  stroke,  that  I  may  see! 

But  tell  to  me  what  mister*  men  ye  be,  *manner,  kind  <34> 

That  be  so  hardy  for  to  fighte  here 

Withoute  judge  or  other  officer. 

As  though  it  were  in  listes  royally  <35> 

This  Palamon  answered  hastily. 

And  saide:  "Sir,  what  needeth  wordes  mo'? 

We  have  the  death  deserved  bothe  two. 

Two  woful  wretches  be  we,  and  caitives. 

That  be  accumbered*  of  our  own  lives,  *burdened 

And  as  thou  art  a  rightful  lord  and  judge. 

So  give  us  neither  mercy  nor  refuge. 

And  slay  me  first,  for  sainte  charity. 

But  slay  my  fellow  eke  as  well  as  me. 

Or  slay  him  first;  for,  though  thou  know  it  lite*,  *little 

This  is  thy  mortal  foe,  this  is  Arcite 

That  from  thy  land  is  banisht  on  his  head. 

For  which  he  hath  deserved  to  be  dead. 

For  this  is  he  that  came  unto  thy  gate 

And  saide,  that  he  highte  Philostrate. 

Thus  hath  he  japed*  thee  full  many  year,  *deceived 

And  thou  hast  made  of  him  thy  chief  esquier; 

And  this  is  he,  that  loveth  Emily. 

For  since  the  day  is  come  that  I  shall  die 

I  make  pleinly*  my  confession,  *fully,  unreservedly 

That  I  am  thilke*  woful  Palamon,  *that  same  <36> 

That  hath  thy  prison  broken  wickedly. 

I  am  thy  mortal  foe,  and  it  am  I 

That  so  hot  loveth  Emily  the  bright. 

That  I  would  die  here  present  in  her  sight. 

Therefore  I  aske  death  and  myjewise*.  *judgement 

But  slay  my  fellow  eke  in  the  same  wise. 


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For  both  we  have  deserved  to  be  slain." 


This  worthy  Duke  answer 'd  anon  again. 

And  said,  "This  is  a  short  conclusion. 

Your  own  mouth,  by  your  own  confession 

Hath  damned  you,  and  I  will  it  record; 

It  needeth  not  to  pain  you  with  the  cord; 

Ye  shall  be  dead,  by  mighty  Mars  the  Red.<37> 

The  queen  anon  for  very  womanhead 

Began  to  weep,  and  so  did  Emily, 

And  all  the  ladies  in  the  company. 

Great  pity  was  it  as  it  thought  them  all. 

That  ever  such  a  chance  should  befall. 

For  gentle  men  they  were,  of  great  estate. 

And  nothing  but  for  love  was  this  debate 

They  saw  their  bloody  woundes  wide  and  sore. 

And  cried  all  at  once,  both  less  and  more, 

"Have  mercy.  Lord,  upon  us  women  all." 

And  on  their  bare  knees  adown  they  fall 

And  would  have  kissed  his  feet  there  as  he  stood. 

Till  at  the  last  *aslaked  was  his  mood*  *his  anger  was 

(For  pity  runneth  soon  in  gentle  heart);  appeased* 

And  though  at  first  for  ire  he  quoke  and  start 

He  hath  consider 'd  shortly  in  a  clause 

The  trespass  of  them  both,  and  eke  the  cause: 

And  although  that  his  ire  their  guilt  accused 

Yet  in  his  reason  he  them  both  excused; 

As  thus;  he  thoughte  well  that  every  man 

Will  help  himself  in  love  if  that  he  can. 

And  eke  deliver  himself  out  of  prison. 

Of  women,  for  they  wepten  ever-in-one:*  *continually 

And  eke  his  hearte  had  compassion 

And  in  his  gentle  heart  he  thought  anon. 


55 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  soft  unto  himself  he  saide:  "Fie 

Upon  a  lord  that  will  have  no  mercy, 

But  be  a  lion  both  in  word  and  deed, 

To  them  that  be  in  repentance  and  dread. 

As  well  as-to  a  proud  dispiteous*  man  *unpitying 

That  will  maintaine  what  he  first  began. 

That  lord  hath  little  of  discretion. 

That  in  such  case  *can  no  division*:  *can  make  no  distinction* 

But  weigheth  pride  and  humbless  *after  one*."  *alike* 

And  shortly,  when  his  ire  is  thus  agone. 

He  gan  to  look  on  them  with  eyen  light*,  *gentle,  lenient* 

And  spake  these  same  wordes  *all  on  height.*  *aloud* 


*bless  ye  him 

*avail,  conquer 


*knew 


"The  god  of  love,  ah!  benedicite*. 

How  mighty  and  how  great  a  lord  is  he! 

Against  his  might  there  gaine*  none  obstacles. 

He  may  be  called  a  god  for  his  miracles 

For  he  can  maken  at  his  owen  guise 

Of  every  heart,  as  that  him  list  devise. 

Lo  here  this  Arcite,  and  this  Palamon, 

That  quietly  were  out  of  my  prison. 

And  might  have  lived  in  Thebes  royally. 

And  weet*  I  am  their  mortal  enemy. 

And  that  their  death  li'th  in  my  might  also. 

And  yet  hath  love,  *maugre  their  eyen  two*,      *in  spite  of  their  eyes* 

Y-brought  them  hither  bothe  for  to  die. 

Now  look  ye,  is  not  this  an  high  folly? 

Who  may  not  be  a  fool,  if  but  he  love? 

Behold,  for  Godde's  sake  that  sits  above. 

See  how  they  bleed!  be  they  not  well  array 'd? 

Thus  hath  their  lord,  the  god  of  love,  them  paid 

Their  wages  and  their  fees  for  their  service; 

And  yet  they  weene  for  to  be  full  wise. 

That  serve  love,  for  aught  that  may  befall. 


*hot  behaviour* 


*long  years  ago* 


*distress 
*snare  <38> 


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But  this  is  yet  the  beste  game*  of  all,  *joke 

That  she,  for  whom  they  have  this  jealousy. 

Can  them  therefor  as  muchel  thank  as  me. 

She  wot  no  more  of  all  this  *hote  fare*. 

By  God,  than  wot  a  cuckoo  or  an  hare. 

But  all  must  be  assayed  hot  or  cold; 

A  man  must  be  a  fool,  or  young  or  old; 

I  wot  it  by  myself  *full  yore  agone*: 

For  in  my  time  a  servant  was  I  one. 

And  therefore  since  I  know  of  love's  pain. 

And  wot  how  sore  it  can  a  man  distrain*. 

As  he  that  oft  hath  been  caught  in  his  last*, 

I  you  forgive  wholly  this  trespass. 

At  request  of  the  queen  that  kneeleth  here. 

And  eke  of  Emily,  my  sister  dear. 

And  ye  shall  both  anon  unto  me  swear. 

That  never  more  ye  shall  my  country  dere* 

Nor  make  war  upon  me  night  nor  day. 

But  be  my  friends  in  alle  that  ye  may. 

I  you  forgive  this  trespass  *every  deal*.  *completely* 

And  they  him  sware  *his  asking*  fair  and  well,  *what  he  asked* 

And  him  of  lordship  and  of  mercy  pray 'd. 

And  he  them  granted  grace,  and  thus  he  said: 

"To  speak  of  royal  lineage  and  richess. 

Though  that  she  were  a  queen  or  a  princess. 

Each  of  you  both  is  worthy  doubteless 

To  wedde  when  time  is;  but  natheless 

I  speak  as  for  my  sister  Emily, 

For  whom  ye  have  this  strife  and  jealousy. 

Ye  wot*  yourselves,  she  may  not  wed  the  two  *know 

At  once,  although  ye  fight  for  evermo: 

But  one  of  you,  *all  be  him  loth  or  lief,*     *whether  or  not  he  wishes* 

He  must  *go  pipe  into  an  ivy  leaP:  *"go  whistle"* 


57 


injure 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*as  is  decreed  for  him* 

*reply 

*he  pleases 


*contend  for 
*promise 


This  is  to  say,  she  may  not  have  you  both, 

All  be  ye  never  so  jealous,  nor  so  wroth. 

And  therefore  I  you  put  in  this  degree. 

That  each  of  you  shall  have  his  destiny 

As  *him  is  shape*;  and  hearken  in  what  wise 

Lo  hear  your  end  of  that  I  shall  devise. 

My  will  is  this,  for  plain  conclusion 

Withouten  any  replication*. 

If  that  you  liketh,  take  it  for  the  best. 

That  evereach  of  you  shall  go  where  *him  lest*. 

Freely  without  ransom  or  danger; 

And  this  day  fifty  weekes,  *farre  ne  nerre*,      *neither  more  nor  less^ 

Evereach  of  you  shall  bring  an  hundred  knights. 

Armed  for  listes  up  at  alle  rights 

All  ready  to  darraine*  her  by  bataille. 

And  this  behete*  I  you  withoute  fail 

Upon  my  troth,  and  as  I  am  a  knight. 

That  whether  of  you  bothe  that  hath  might. 

That  is  to  say,  that  whether  he  or  thou 

May  with  his  hundred,  as  I  spake  of  now. 

Slay  his  contrary,  or  out  of  listes  drive. 

Him  shall  I  given  Emily  to  wive. 

To  whom  that  fortune  gives  so  fair  a  grace. 

The  listes  shall  I  make  here  in  this  place. 

*And  God  so  wisly  on  my  soule  rue*. 

As  I  shall  even  judge  be  and  true. 

Ye  shall  none  other  ende  with  me  maken 

Than  one  of  you  shalle  be  dead  or  taken. 

And  if  you  thinketh  this  is  well  y-said. 

Say  your  advice*,  and  hold  yourselves  apaid* 

This  is  your  end,  and  your  conclusion." 

Who  looketh  lightly  now  but  Palamon? 

Who  springeth  up  for  joye  but  Arcite? 

Who  could  it  tell,  or  who  could  it  indite. 


may  God  as  surely  have 
mercy  on  my  soul* 


*opinion  **satisfied 


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59 


The  joye  that  is  maked  in  the  place 

When  Theseus  hath  done  so  fair  a  grace? 

But  down  on  knees  went  every  *manner  wight*,  *kind  of  person* 

And  thanked  him  with  all  their  heartes'  might. 

And  namely*  these  Thebans  *ofte  sithe*.         *especially  *oftentimes* 

And  thus  with  good  hope  and  with  hearte  blithe 

They  take  their  leave,  and  homeward  gan  they  ride 

To  Thebes-ward,  with  his  old  walles  wide. 


I  trow  men  woulde  deem  it  negligence. 
If  I  forgot  to  telle  the  dispence* 
Of  Theseus,  that  went  so  busily 
To  maken  up  the  listes  royally. 
That  such  a  noble  theatre  as  it  was, 
I  dare  well  say,  in  all  this  world  there  n'as*. 
The  circuit  a  mile  was  about. 
Walled  of  stone,  and  ditched  all  without. 
*Round  was  the  shape,  in  manner  of  compass. 
Full  of  degrees,  the  height  of  sixty  pas* 
That  when  a  man  was  set  on  one  degree 
He  letted*  not  his  fellow  for  to  see. 
Eastward  there  stood  a  gate  of  marble  white. 
Westward  right  such  another  opposite. 
And,  shortly  to  conclude,  such  a  place 
Was  never  on  earth  made  in  so  little  space. 
For  in  the  land  there  was  no  craftes-man. 
That  geometry  or  arsmetrike*  can**. 
Nor  pourtrayor*,  nor  carver  of  images. 
That  Theseus  ne  gave  him  meat  and  wages 
The  theatre  to  make  and  to  devise. 
And  for  to  do  his  rite  and  sacrifice 
He  eastward  hath  upon  the  gate  above. 
In  worship  of  Venus,  goddess  of  love, 
*Done  make*  an  altar  and  an  oratory; 


*expenditure 

*was  not 

*seenote  <39>* 
*hindered 


*arithmetic  **knew 
*portrait  painter 


*caused  to  be  made* 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  westward,  in  the  mind  and  in  memory 

Of  Mars,  he  maked  hath  right  such  another. 

That  coste  largely  of  gold  a  fother*.  *a  great  amount 

And  northward,  in  a  turret  on  the  wall. 

Of  alabaster  white  and  red  coral 

An  oratory  riche  for  to  see. 

In  worship  of  Diane  of  chastity. 

Hath  Theseus  done  work  in  noble  wise. 

But  yet  had  I  forgotten  to  devise*  *describe 

The  noble  carving,  and  the  portraitures. 

The  shape,  the  countenance  of  the  figures 

That  weren  in  there  oratories  three. 

First  in  the  temple  of  Venus  may'st  thou  see 

Wrought  on  the  wall,  full  piteous  to  behold. 

The  broken  sleepes,  and  the  sikes*  cold,  *sighes 

The  sacred  teares,  and  the  waimentings*,  *lamentings 

The  fiery  strokes  of  the  desirings. 

That  Love  s  servants  in  this  life  endure; 

The  oathes,  that  their  covenants  assure. 

Pleasance  and  Hope,  Desire,  Foolhardiness, 

Beauty  and  Youth,  and  Bawdry  and  Richess, 

Charms  and  Sorc'ry,  Leasings*  and  Flattery,  *falsehoods 

Dispence,  Business,  and  Jealousy, 

That  wore  of  yellow  goldes*  a  garland,  *sunflowers  <40> 

And  had  a  cuckoo  sitting  on  her  hand. 

Feasts,  instruments,  and  caroles  and  dances. 

Lust  and  array,  and  all  the  circumstances 

Of  Love,  which  I  reckon'd  and  reckon  shall 

In  order,  were  painted  on  the  wall. 

And  more  than  I  can  make  of  mention. 

For  soothly  all  the  mount  of  Citheron,<41> 

Where  Venus  hath  her  principal  dwelling. 

Was  showed  on  the  wall  in  pourtraying. 


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With  all  the  garden,  and  the  lustiness*.  *pleasantness 

Nor  was  forgot  the  porter  Idleness, 

Nor  Narcissus  the  fair  of  *yore  agone*,  *olden  times* 

Nor  yet  the  folly  of  King  Solomon, 

Nor  yet  the  greate  strength  of  Hercules, 

Th'  enchantments  of  Medea  and  Circes, 

Nor  of  Turnus  the  hardy  fierce  courage. 

The  rich  Croesus  *caitif  in  servage.*  <42>  *abased  into  slavery* 

Thus  may  ye  see,  that  wisdom  nor  richess. 

Beauty,  nor  sleight,  nor  strength,  nor  hardiness 

Ne  may  with  Venus  holde  champartie*,  *divided  possession  <  43  > 

For  as  her  liste  the  world  may  she  gie*.  *guide 

Lo,  all  these  folk  so  caught  were  in  her  las*  *snare 

Till  they  for  woe  full  often  said,  Alas! 

Suffice  these  ensamples  one  or  two. 

Although  I  could  reckon  a  thousand  mo'. 

The  statue  of  Venus,  glorious  to  see 
Was  naked  floating  in  the  large  sea. 
And  from  the  navel  down  all  cover'd  was 
With  waves  green,  and  bright  as  any  glass. 
A  citole  <44>  in  her  right  hand  hadde  she. 
And  on  her  head,  full  seemly  for  to  see, 
A  rose  garland  fresh,  and  well  smelling. 
Above  her  head  her  doves  flickering 
Before  her  stood  her  sone  Cupido, 
Upon  his  shoulders  winges  had  he  two; 
And  blind  he  was,  as  it  is  often  seen; 
A  bow  he  bare,  and  arrows  bright  and  keen. 

Why  should  I  not  as  well  eke  tell  you  all 

The  portraiture,  that  was  upon  the  wall 

Within  the  temple  of  mighty  Mars  the  Red? 

All  painted  was  the  wall  in  length  and  brede*  *breadth 


61 


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Like  to  the  estres*  of  the  grisly  place  *interior  chambers 

That  hight  the  great  temple  of  Mars  in  Thrace, 

In  thilke*  cold  and  frosty  region,  *that 

There  as  Mars  hath  his  sovereign  mansion. 

In  which  there  dwelled  neither  man  nor  beast. 

With  knotty  gnarry*  barren  trees  old  *gnarled 

Of  stubbes  sharp  and  hideous  to  behold; 

In  which  there  ran  a  rumble  and  a  sough*,  *groaning  noise 

As  though  a  storm  should  bursten  every  bough: 

And  downward  from  an  hill  under  a  bent*  *slope 

There  stood  the  temple  of  Mars  Armipotent, 

Wrought  all  of  burnish'd  steel,  of  which  th'  entry 

Was  long  and  strait,  and  ghastly  for  to  see. 

And  thereout  came  *a  rage  and  such  a  vise*,        *such  a  furious  voice* 

That  it  made  all  the  gates  for  to  rise. 

The  northern  light  in  at  the  doore  shone. 

For  window  on  the  walle  was  there  none 

Through  which  men  mighten  any  light  discern. 

The  doors  were  all  of  adamant  etern, 

Y-clenched  *overthwart  and  ende-long*        *crossways  and  lengthways* 

With  iron  tough,  and,  for  to  make  it  strong. 

Every  pillar  the  temple  to  sustain 

Was  tunne-great*,  of  iron  bright  and  sheen.      *thick  as  a  tun  (barrel) 

There  saw  I  first  the  dark  imagining 

Of  felony,  and  all  the  compassing; 

The  cruel  ire,  as  red  as  any  glede*,  *live  coal 

The  picke-purse<45>,  and  eke  the  pale  dread; 

The  smiler  with  the  knife  under  the  cloak. 

The  shepen*  burning  with  the  blacke  smoke  *stable  <46> 

The  treason  of  the  murd'ring  in  the  bed. 

The  open  war,  with  woundes  all  be-bled; 

Conteke*  with  bloody  knife,  and  sharp  menace.       *contention,  discord 

All  full  of  chirking*  was  that  sorry  place.      *creaking,  jarring  noise 

The  slayer  of  himself  eke  saw  I  there. 


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His  hearte-blood  had  bathed  all  his  hair: 

The  nail  y-driven  in  the  shode*  at  night,         *hair  of  the  head  <47> 

The  colde  death,  with  mouth  gaping  upright. 

Amiddes  of  the  temple  sat  Mischance, 

With  discomfort  and  sorry  countenance; 

Eke  saw  I  Woodness*  laughing  in  his  rage,  *Madness 

Armed  Complaint,  Outhees*,  and  fierce  Outrage;  *Outcry 


The  carrain*  in  the  bush,  with  throat  y-corve**, 
A  thousand  slain,  and  not  *of  qualm  y-storve*; 
The  tyrant,  with  the  prey  by  force  y-reft; 
The  town  destroy 'd,  that  there  was  nothing  left. 
Yet  saw  I  brent*  the  shippes  hoppesteres,  <48> 
The  hunter  strangled  with  the  wilde  bears: 
The  sow  freting*  the  child  right  in  the  cradle; 
The  cook  scalded,  for  all  his  longe  ladle. 
Nor  was  forgot,  *by  th'infortune  of  Mart* 
The  carter  overridden  with  his  cart; 
Under  the  wheel  full  low  he  lay  adown. 
There  were  also  of  Mars'  division. 
The  armourer,  the  bowyer*,  and  the  smith. 
That  forgeth  sharp  swordes  on  his  stith*. 
And  all  above  depainted  in  a  tower 
Saw  I  Conquest,  sitting  in  great  honour. 
With  thilke*  sharpe  sword  over  his  head 
Hanging  by  a  subtle  y-twined  thread. 
Painted  the  slaughter  was  ofjulius<50>. 
Of  cruel  Nero,  and  Antonius: 
Although  at  that  time  they  were  yet  unborn. 
Yet  was  their  death  depainted  there  beforn. 
By  menacing  of  Mars,  right  by  figure. 
So  was  it  showed  in  that  portraiture. 
As  is  depainted  in  the  stars  above. 
Who  shall  be  slain,  or  elles  dead  for  love. 
Sufficeth  one  ensample  in  stories  old. 


*corpse  **slashed 
*dead  of  sickness* 


*burnt 

*devouring  <49> 

through  the  misfortune 
of  war* 


*maker  of  bows 
*anvil 


*that 


64 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


I  may  not  reckon  them  all,  though  I  wo 'Id. 

The  statue  of  Mars  upon  a  carte*  stood 
Armed,  and  looked  grim  as  he  were  wood*. 
And  over  his  head  there  shone  two  figures 
Of  starres,  that  be  cleped  in  scriptures. 
That  one  Puella,  that  other  Rubeus.  <51> 
This  god  of  armes  was  arrayed  thus: 
A  wolf  there  stood  before  him  at  his  feet 
With  eyen  red,  and  of  a  man  he  eat: 
With  subtle  pencil  painted  was  this  story. 
In  redouting*  of  Mars  and  of  his  glory. 

Now  to  the  temple  of  Dian  the  chaste 
As  shortly  as  I  can  I  will  me  haste. 
To  telle  you  all  the  descriptioun. 
Depainted  be  the  walles  up  and  down 
Of  hunting  and  of  shamefast  chastity. 
There  saw  I  how  wo ful  Calistope,<52> 
When  that  Dian  aggrieved  was  with  her. 
Was  turned  from  a  woman  to  a  bear. 
And  after  was  she  made  the  lodestar*: 
Thus  was  it  painted,  I  can  say  no  far*; 
Her  son  is  eke  a  star  as  men  may  see. 
There  saw  I  Dane  <53>  turn'd  into  a  tree, 
I  meane  not  the  goddess  Diane, 
But  Peneus'  daughter,  which  that  hight  Dane. 
There  saw  I  Actaeon  an  hart  y-maked*. 
For  vengeance  that  he  saw  Dian  all  naked: 
I  saw  how  that  his  houndes  have  him  caught. 
And  freten*  him,  for  that  they  knew  him  not. 
Yet  painted  was,  a  little  farthermore 
How  Atalanta  hunted  the  wild  boar; 
And  Meleager,  and  many  other  mo'. 


*chariot 
*mad 


*reverance,  fear 


*pole  star 
*farther 


*made 


*devour 


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For  which  Diana  wrought  them  care  and  woe. 

There  saw  I  many  another  wondrous  story. 

The  which  me  list  not  drawen  to  memory. 

This  goddess  on  an  hart  full  high  was  set*,  *seated 

With  smalle  houndes  all  about  her  feet. 

And  underneath  her  feet  she  had  a  moon. 

Waxing  it  was,  and  shoulde  wane  soon. 

In  gaudy  green  her  statue  clothed  was. 

With  bow  in  hand,  and  arrows  in  a  case*.  *quiver 

Her  eyen  caste  she  full  low  adown. 

Where  Pluto  hath  his  darke  regioun. 

A  woman  travailing  was  her  beforn. 

But,  for  her  child  so  longe  was  unborn. 

Full  piteously  Lucina  <54>  gan  she  call. 

And  saide;  "Help,  for  thou  may'st  best  of  all." 

Well  could  he  painte  lifelike  that  it  wrought; 

With  many  a  florin  he  the  hues  had  bought. 

Now  be  these  listes  made,  and  Theseus, 

That  at  his  greate  cost  arrayed  thus 

The  temples,  and  the  theatre  every  deal*,  *part  <SS> 

When  it  was  done,  him  liked  wonder  well. 

But  stint*  I  will  of  Theseus  a  lite**,  *cease  speaking  **little 

And  speak  of  Palamon  and  of  Arcite. 

The  day  approacheth  of  their  returning. 

That  evereach  an  hundred  knights  should  bring. 

The  battle  to  darraine*  as  I  you  told; 

And  to  Athens,  their  covenant  to  hold. 

Hath  ev'reach  of  them  brought  an  hundred  knights. 

Well-armed  for  the  war  at  alle  rights. 

And  sickerly*  there  trowed**  many  a  man. 

That  never,  sithen*  that  the  world  began. 

For  to  speaken  of  knighthood  of  their  hand. 

As  far  as  God  hath  maked  sea  and  land. 


65 


contest 


^surely  <56>  **believed 


66 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Was,  of  so  few,  so  noble  a  company. 

For  every  wight  that  loved  chivalry. 

And  would,  *his  thankes,  have  a  passant  name*,        *thanks  to  his  own 

Had  prayed,  that  he  might  be  of  that  game,  efforts,  have  a 

And  well  was  him,  that  thereto  chosen  was.  surpassing  name* 

For  if  there  fell  to-morrow  such  a  case. 

Ye  knowe  well,  that  every  lusty  knight. 

That  loveth  par  amour,  and  hath  his  might 

Were  it  in  Engleland,  or  elleswhere. 

They  would,  their  thankes,  willen  to  be  there, 

T'  fight  for  a  lady;  Benedicite, 

It  were  a  lusty*  sighte  for  to  see.  *pleasing 

And  right  so  fared  they  with  Palamon; 

With  him  there  wente  knightes  many  one. 

Some  will  be  armed  in  an  habergeon. 

And  in  a  breast-plate,  and  in  a  gipon*;  *short  doublet. 

And  some  will  have  *a  pair  of  plates*  large;      *back  and  front  armour* 

And  some  will  have  a  Prusse*  shield,  or  targe;  *Prussian 

Some  will  be  armed  on  their  legges  weel; 

Some  have  an  axe,  and  some  a  mace  of  steel. 

There  is  no  newe  guise*,  but  it  was  old.  *fashion 

Armed  they  weren,  as  I  have  you  told, 

Evereach  after  his  opinion. 

There  may'st  thou  see  coming  with  Palamon 

Licurgus  himself,  the  great  king  of  Thrace: 

Black  was  his  beard,  and  manly  was  his  face. 

The  circles  of  his  eyen  in  his  head 

They  glowed  betwixte  yellow  and  red. 

And  like  a  griffm  looked  he  about. 

With  kemped*  haires  on  his  browes  stout;  *combed<57> 

His  limbs  were  great,  his  brawns  were  hard  and  strong. 

His  shoulders  broad,  his  armes  round  and  long. 

And  as  the  guise*  was  in  his  country,  *fashion 

Full  high  upon  a  car  of  gold  stood  he. 


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With  foure  white  bulles  in  the  trace. 

Instead  of  coat-armour  on  his  harness. 

With  yellow  nails,  and  bright  as  any  gold. 

He  had  a  beare's  skin,  coal-black  for  old*.  *age 

His  long  hair  was  y-kempt  behind  his  back. 

As  any  raven's  feather  it  shone  for  black. 

A  wreath  of  gold  *arm-great*,  of  huge  weight,      *thick  as  a  man's  arm* 

Upon  his  head  sate,  full  of  stones  bright. 

Of  fme  rubies  and  clear  diamants. 

About  his  car  there  wente  white  alauns*,  *greyhounds  <58> 

Twenty  and  more,  as  great  as  any  steer. 

To  hunt  the  lion  or  the  wilde  bear. 

And  follow'd  him,  with  muzzle  fast  y-bound. 

Collars  of  gold,  and  torettes*  filed  round.  *rings 

An  hundred  lordes  had  he  in  his  rout*  *retinue 

Armed  full  well,  with  heartes  stern  and  stout. 


With  Arcita,  in  stories  as  men  find. 

The  great  Emetrius  the  king  of  Ind, 

Upon  a  *steede  bay*  trapped  in  steel. 

Cover 'd  with  cloth  of  gold  diapred*  well. 

Came  riding  like  the  god  of  armes.  Mars. 

His  coat-armour  was  of  *a  cloth  of  Tars*, 

Couched*  with  pearls  white  and  round  and  great 

His  saddle  was  of  burnish'd  gold  new  beat; 

A  mantelet  on  his  shoulders  hanging, 

Bretful*  of  rubies  red,  as  fire  sparkling. 

His  crispe  hair  like  ringes  was  y-run. 

And  that  was  yellow,  glittering  as  the  sun. 

His  nose  was  high,  his  eyen  bright  citrine*. 

His  lips  were  round,  his  colour  was  sanguine, 

A  fewe  fracknes*  in  his  face  y-sprent**,  *freckles  **sprinkled 

Betwixte  yellow  and  black  somedeal  y-ment*  *mixed  <59 

And  as  a  lion  he  *his  looking  cast*  *cast  about  his  eyes* 


*bay  horse* 
*decorated 

*a  kind  of  silk* 

*trimmed 


*brimful 


*pale  yellow 


68 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Of  five  and  twenty  year  his  age  I  cast*  *reckon 

His  beard  was  well  begunnen  for  to  spring; 

His  voice  was  as  a  trumpet  thundering. 

Upon  his  head  he  wore  of  laurel  green 

A  garland  fresh  and  lusty  to  be  seen; 

Upon  his  hand  he  bare,  for  his  delight, 

An  eagle  tame,  as  any  lily  white. 

An  hundred  lordes  had  he  with  him  there. 

All  armed,  save  their  heads,  in  all  their  gear. 

Full  richely  in  alle  manner  things. 

For  trust  ye  well,  that  earles,  dukes,  and  kings 

Were  gather 'd  in  this  noble  company. 

For  love,  and  for  increase  of  chivalry. 

About  this  king  there  ran  on  every  part 

Full  many  a  tame  lion  and  leopart. 

And  in  this  wise  these  lordes  *all  and  some*  *all  and  sundry* 

Be  on  the  Sunday  to  the  city  come 

Aboute  prime<60>,  and  in  the  town  alight. 


This  Theseus,  this  Duke,  this  worthy  knight 
When  he  had  brought  them  into  his  city. 
And  inned*  them,  ev'reach  at  his  degree. 
He  feasteth  them,  and  doth  so  great  labour 
To  *easen  them*,  and  do  them  all  honour. 
That  yet  men  weene*  that  no  mannes  wit 
Of  none  estate  could  amenden*  it. 
The  minstrelsy,  the  service  at  the  feast. 
The  greate  giftes  to  the  most  and  least. 
The  rich  array  of  Theseus'  palace. 
Nor  who  sate  first  or  last  upon  the  dais.  <  61  > 
What  ladies  fairest  be,  or  best  dancing 
Or  which  of  them  can  carol  best  or  sing. 
Or  who  most  feelingly  speaketh  of  love; 
What  hawkes  sitten  on  the  perch  above, 


*lodged 

*make  them  comfortable* 
*think 
*improve 


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What  houndes  liggen*  on  the  floor  adown,  *lie 

Of  all  this  now  make  I  no  mentioun 

But  of  th'effect;  that  thinketh  me  the  best 

Now  comes  the  point,  and  hearken  if  you  lest.*  *please 


69 


The  Sunday  night,  ere  day  began  to  spring. 

When  Palamon  the  larke  hearde  sing. 

Although  it  were  not  day  by  houres  two. 

Yet  sang  the  lark,  and  Palamon  right  tho* 

With  holy  heart,  and  with  an  high  courage. 

Arose,  to  wenden*  on  his  pilgrimage 

Unto  the  blissful  Cithera  benign, 

I  meane  Venus,  honourable  and  digne*. 

And  in  her  hour  <62>  he  walketh  forth  a  pace 

Unto  the  listes,  where  her  temple  was. 

And  down  he  kneeleth,  and  with  humble  cheer* 

And  hearte  sore,  he  said  as  ye  shall  hear. 


*then 

*worthy 
*demeanour 


"Fairest  of  fair,  O  lady  mine  Venus, 
Daughter  to  Jove,  and  spouse  of  Vulcanus, 
Thou  gladder  of  the  mount  of  Citheron!<41> 
For  thilke  love  thou  haddest  to  Adon  <63> 
Have  pity  on  my  bitter  teares  smart. 
And  take  mine  humble  prayer  to  thine  heart. 
Alas!  I  have  no  language  to  tell 
Th'effecte,  nor  the  torment  of  mine  hell; 
Mine  hearte  may  mine  harmes  not  betray; 
I  am  so  confused,  that  I  cannot  say. 
But  mercy,  lady  bright,  that  knowest  well 
My  thought,  and  seest  what  harm  that  I  feel. 
Consider  all  this,  and  *rue  upon*  my  sore. 
As  wisly*  as  I  shall  for  evermore 
Enforce  my  might,  thy  true  servant  to  be. 
And  holde  war  alway  with  chastity: 


*take  pity  on* 
*truly 


70 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


vow,  promise 
*boast 


*praise  for  valour* 


That  make  I  mine  avow*,  so  ye  me  help. 

I  keepe  not  of  armes  for  to  yelp,* 

Nor  ask  I  not  to-morrow  to  have  victory. 

Nor  renown  in  this  case,  nor  vaine  glory 

Of  *prize  of  armes*,  blowing  up  and  down. 

But  I  would  have  fully  possessioun 

Of  Emily,  and  die  in  her  service; 

Find  thou  the  manner  how,  and  in  what  wise. 

I  *recke  not  but*  it  may  better  be  *do  not  know  whether'' 

To  have  vict'ry  of  them,  or  they  of  me. 

So  that  I  have  my  lady  in  mine  arms. 

For  though  so  be  that  Mars  is  god  of  arms. 

Your  virtue  is  so  great  in  heaven  above. 

That,  if  you  list,  I  shall  well  have  my  love. 

Thy  temple  will  I  worship  evermo'. 

And  on  thine  altar,  where  I  ride  or  go, 

I  will  do  sacrifice,  and  fires  bete*.  *make,  kindle 

And  if  ye  will  not  so,  my  lady  sweet. 

Then  pray  I  you,  to-morrow  with  a  spear 

That  Arcita  me  through  the  hearte  bear 

Then  reck  I  not,  when  I  have  lost  my  life. 

Though  that  Arcita  win  her  to  his  wife. 

This  is  th'  effect  and  end  of  my  prayere,  — 

Give  me  my  love,  thou  blissful  lady  dear." 

When  th'  orison  was  done  of  Palamon, 

His  sacrifice  he  did,  and  that  anon. 

Full  piteously,  with  alle  circumstances, 

*A11  tell  I  not  as  now*  his  observances.        *although  I  tell  not  now' 

But  at  the  last  the  statue  of  Venus  shook. 

And  made  a  signe,  whereby  that  he  took 

That  his  prayer  accepted  was  that  day. 

For  though  the  signe  shewed  a  delay. 

Yet  wist  he  well  that  granted  was  his  boon; 

And  with  glad  heart  he  went  him  home  full  soon. 


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71 


The  third  hour  unequal  <64>  that  Palamon 

Began  to  Venus'  temple  for  to  gon. 

Up  rose  the  sun,  and  up  rose  Emily, 

And  to  the  temple  of  Dian  gan  hie. 

Her  maidens,  that  she  thither  with  her  lad*,  *led 

Th'  incense,  the  clothes,  and  the  remnant  all 

That  to  the  sacrifice  belonge  shall. 

The  homes  full  of  mead,  as  was  the  guise; 

There  lacked  nought  to  do  her  sacrifice. 

Smoking*  the  temple  full  of  clothes  fair,  *draping  <65> 

This  Emily  with  hearte  debonnair*  *gentle 

Her  body  wash'd  with  water  of  a  well. 

But  how  she  did  her  rite  I  dare  not  tell; 

But*  it  be  any  thing  in  general;  *unless 

And  yet  it  were  a  game*  to  hearen  all  *pleasure 

To  him  that  meaneth  well  it  were  no  charge: 

But  it  is  good  a  man  to  *be  at  large*.  *do  as  he  will* 

Her  bright  hair  combed  was,  untressed  all. 

A  coronet  of  green  oak  cerriall  <66> 

Upon  her  head  was  set  full  fair  and  meet. 

Two  fires  on  the  altar  gan  she  bete. 

And  did  her  thinges,  as  men  may  behold 

In  Stace  of  Thebes  <67>,  and  these  bookes  old. 

When  kindled  was  the  fire,  with  piteous  cheer 

Unto  Dian  she  spake  as  ye  may  hear. 


"O  chaste  goddess  of  the  woodes  green. 

To  whom  both  heav'n  and  earth  and  sea  is  seen. 

Queen  of  the  realm  of  Pluto  dark  and  low. 

Goddess  of  maidens,  that  mine  heart  hast  know 

Full  many  a  year,  and  wost*  what  I  desire,  *knowest 

To  keep  me  from  the  vengeance  of  thine  ire. 

That  Actaeon  aboughte*  cruelly:  *earned;  suffered  from 


12 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Chaste  goddess,  well  wottest  thou  that  I 

Desire  to  be  a  maiden  all  my  life, 

Nor  never  will  I  be  no  love  nor  wife. 

I  am,  thou  wost*,  yet  of  thy  company,  *knowest 

A  maid,  and  love  hunting  and  venery*,  *field  sports 

And  for  to  walken  in  the  woodes  wild. 

And  not  to  be  a  wife,  and  be  with  child. 

Nought  will  I  know  the  company  of  man. 

Now  help  me,  lady,  since  ye  may  and  can. 

For  those  three  formes  <68>  that  thou  hast  in  thee. 

And  Palamon,  that  hath  such  love  to  me. 

And  eke  Arcite,  that  loveth  me  so  sore. 

This  grace  I  pray  thee  withoute  more. 

As  sende  love  and  peace  betwixt  them  two: 

And  from  me  turn  away  their  heartes  so. 

That  all  their  bote  love,  and  their  desire. 

And  all  their  busy  torment,  and  their  fire. 

Be  queint*,  or  turn'd  into  another  place.  *quenched 

And  if  so  be  thou  wilt  do  me  no  grace. 

Or  if  my  destiny  be  shapen  so 

That  I  shall  needes  have  one  of  them  two. 

So  send  me  him  that  most  desireth  me. 

Behold,  goddess  of  cleane  chastity. 

The  bitter  tears  that  on  my  cheekes  fall. 

Since  thou  art  maid,  and  keeper  of  us  all. 

My  maidenhead  thou  keep  and  well  conserve. 

And,  while  I  live,  a  maid  I  will  thee  serve. 


The  fires  burn  upon  the  altar  clear. 
While  Emily  was  thus  in  her  prayere: 
But  suddenly  she  saw  a  sighte  quaint*. 
For  right  anon  one  of  the  fire's  *queint 
And  quick'd*  again,  and  after  that  anon 
That  other  fire  was  queint,  and  all  agone: 


strange 
Vent  out  and  revived* 


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And  as  it  queint,  it  made  a  whisteling. 

As  doth  a  brande  wet  in  its  burning. 

And  at  the  brandes  end  outran  anon 

As  it  were  bloody  droppes  many  one: 

For  which  so  sore  aghast  was  Emily, 

That  she  was  well-nigh  mad,  and  gan  to  cry. 

For  she  ne  wiste  what  it  signified; 

But  onely  for  feare  thus  she  cried. 

And  wept,  that  it  was  pity  for  to  hear. 

And  therewithal  Diana  gan  appear 

With  bow  in  hand,  right  as  an  hunteress. 

And  saide;  "Daughter,  stint*  thine  heaviness.  *cease 

Among  the  goddes  high  it  is  affirm'd. 

And  by  eternal  word  writ  and  confirm'd. 

Thou  shalt  be  wedded  unto  one  of  tho*  *those 

That  have  for  thee  so  muche  care  and  woe: 

But  unto  which  of  them  I  may  not  tell. 

Farewell,  for  here  I  may  no  longer  dwell. 

The  fires  which  that  on  mine  altar  brenn*,  *burn 

Shall  thee  declaren,  ere  that  thou  go  henne*,  *hence 

Thine  aventure  of  love,  as  in  this  case." 

And  with  that  word,  the  arrows  in  the  case*  *quiver 

Of  the  goddess  did  clatter  fast  and  ring. 

And  forth  she  went,  and  made  a  vanishing. 

For  which  this  Emily  astonied  was. 

And  saide;  "What  amounteth  this,  alas! 

I  put  me  under  thy  protection, 

Diane,  and  in  thy  disposition." 

And  home  she  went  anon  the  nexte*  way.  *nearest 

This  is  th'  effect,  there  is  no  more  to  say. 

The  nexte  hour  of  Mars  following  this 
Arcite  to  the  temple  walked  is 
Of  fierce  Mars,  to  do  his  sacrifice 


73 


74 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


With  all  the  rites  of  his  pagan  guise. 
With  piteous*  heart  and  high  devotion 
Right  thus  to  Mars  he  said  his  orison 
"O  stronge  god,  that  in  the  regnes*  old 
Of  Thrace  honoured  art,  and  lord  y-hold* 
And  hast  in  every  regne,  and  every  land 
Of  armes  all  the  bridle  in  thine  hand. 
And  *them  fortunest  as  thee  list  devise*. 
Accept  of  me  my  piteous  sacrifice. 
If  so  be  that  my  youthe  may  deserve. 
And  that  my  might  be  worthy  for  to  serve 
Thy  godhead,  that  I  maybe  one  of  thine. 
Then  pray  I  thee  to  *rue  upon  my  pine*. 
For  thilke*  pain,  and  thilke  bote  fire. 
In  which  thou  whilom  burned'st  for  desire 
Whenne  that  thou  usedest*  the  beauty 
Of  faire  young  Venus,  fresh  and  free. 
And  haddest  her  in  armes  at  thy  will: 
And  though  thee  ones  on  a  time  misfill*. 
When  Vulcanus  had  caught  thee  in  his  las*. 
And  found  thee  ligging*  by  his  wife,  alas! 
For  thilke  sorrow  that  was  in  thine  heart. 
Have  ruth*  as  well  upon  my  paine  s  smart. 
I  am  young  and  unconning*,  as  thou  know'st. 
And,  as  I  trow*,  with  love  offended  most 
That  e'er  was  any  living  creature: 
For  she,  that  doth*  me  all  this  woe  endure, 
Ne  recketh  ne'er  whether  I  sink  or  fleet* 
And  well  I  wot,  ere  she  me  mercy  hete*, 
I  must  with  strengthe  win  her  in  the  place: 
And  well  I  wot,  withoute  help  or  grace 
Of  thee,  ne  may  my  strengthe  not  avail: 
Then  help  me,  lord,  to-morr'w  in  my  bataille. 
For  thilke  fire  that  whilom  burned  thee. 


pious 

*realms 
*held 


*send  them  fortune 
as  you  please* 


*pity  my  anguish* 
*that 


*enjoyed 


*were  unlucky 
*net  <69> 
*lying 

*pity 
*ignorant,  simple 
*believe 

*causes 
*swim 
*promise,  vouchsafe 


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As  well  as  this  fire  that  now  burneth  me; 

And  do*  that  I  to-morr'w  may  have  victory.  *cause 

Mine  be  the  travail,  all  thine  be  the  glory. 

Thy  sovereign  temple  will  I  most  honour 

Of  any  place,  and  alway  most  labour 

In  thy  pleasance  and  in  thy  craftes  strong. 

And  in  thy  temple  I  will  my  banner  hong*,  *hang 

And  all  the  armes  of  my  company. 

And  evermore,  until  that  day  I  die. 

Eternal  fire  I  will  before  thee  find 

And  eke  to  this  my  vow  I  will  me  bind: 

My  beard,  my  hair  that  hangeth  long  adown. 

That  never  yet  hath  felt  offension*  *indignity 

Of  razor  nor  of  shears,  I  will  thee  give. 

And  be  thy  true  servant  while  I  live. 

Now,  lord,  have  ruth  upon  my  sorrows  sore. 

Give  me  the  victory,  I  ask  no  more." 


75 


The  prayer  stint*  of  Arcita  the  strong. 
The  ringes  on  the  temple  door  that  hong. 
And  eke  the  doores,  clattered  full  fast. 
Of  which  Arcita  somewhat  was  aghast. 
The  fires  burn'd  upon  the  altar  bright. 
That  it  gan  all  the  temple  for  to  light; 
A  sweete  smell  anon  the  ground  up  gaP, 
And  Arcita  anon  his  hand  up  haf , 
And  more  incense  into  the  fire  he  cast. 
With  other  rites  more  and  at  the  last 
The  statue  of  Mars  began  his  hauberk  ring; 
And  with  that  sound  he  heard  a  murmuring 
Full  low  and  dim,  that  saide  thus,  "Victory." 
For  which  he  gave  to  Mars  honour  and  glory. 
And  thus  with  joy,  and  hope  well  to  fare, 
Arcite  anon  unto  his  inn  doth  fare. 


*ended 


gave 
*lifted 


76 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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77 


As  fain*  as  fowl  is  of  the  brighte  sun.  *glad 

And  right  anon  such  strife  there  is  begun 

For  thilke*  granting,  in  the  heav'n  above,  *that 

Betwixte  Venus  the  goddess  of  love. 

And  Mars  the  sterne  god  armipotent. 

That  Jupiter  was  busy  it  to  stent*:  *stop 

Till  that  the  pale  Saturnus  the  cold, <  70 > 

That  knew  so  many  of  adventures  old. 

Found  in  his  old  experience  such  an  art. 

That  he  full  soon  hath  pleased  every  part. 

As  sooth  is  said,  eld*  hath  great  advantage. 

In  eld  is  bothe  wisdom  and  usage*: 

Men  may  the  old  out-run,  but  not  out-rede*. 

Saturn  anon,  to  stint  the  strife  and  drede. 

Albeit  that  it  is  against  his  kind,* 

Of  all  this  strife  gan  a  remedy  fmd. 

"My  deare  daughter  Venus,"  quoth  Saturn, 

"My  course*,  that  hath  so  wide  for  to  turn. 

Hath  more  power  than  wot  any  man. 

Mine  is  the  drowning  in  the  sea  so  wan; 

Mine  is  the  prison  in  the  darke  cote*,  *cell 

Mine  the  strangling  and  hanging  by  the  throat. 

The  murmur,  and  the  churlish  rebelling. 

The  groyning*,  and  the  privy  poisoning.  *discontent 

I  do  vengeance  and  plein*  correction,  *full 

I  dwell  in  the  sign  of  the  lion. 

Mine  is  the  ruin  of  the  highe  halls. 

The  falling  of  the  towers  and  the  walls 

Upon  the  miner  or  the  carpenter: 

I  slew  Samson  in  shaking  the  pillar: 

Mine  also  be  the  maladies  cold. 

The  darke  treasons,  and  the  castes*  old:  *plots 

My  looking  is  the  father  of  pestilence. 


age 
*experience 

*outwit 

*nature 


*orbit<71> 


Now  weep  no  more,  I  shall  do  diligence 

That  Palamon,  that  is  thine  owen  knight. 

Shall  have  his  lady,  as  thou  hast  him  hight*. 

Though  Mars  shall  help  his  knight,  yet  natheless 

Betwixte  you  there  must  sometime  be  peace: 

All  be  ye  not  of  one  complexion. 

That  each  day  causeth  such  division, 

I  am  thine  ayel*,  ready  at  thy  will; 

Weep  now  no  more,  I  shall  thy  lust*  fulfil.' 

Now  will  I  stenten*  of  the  gods  above. 

Of  Mars,  and  of  Venus,  goddess  of  love. 

And  telle  you  as  plainly  as  I  can 

The  great  effect,  for  which  that  I  began. 


*promised 


grandfather  <72> 
*pleasure 
*cease  speaking 


Great  was  the  feast  in  Athens  thilke*  day; 
And  eke  the  lusty  season  of  that  May 
Made  every  wight  to  be  in  such  pleasance. 
That  all  that  Monday] ousten  they  and  dance. 
And  spenden  it  in  Venus'  high  service. 
But  by  the  cause  that  they  shoulde  rise 
Early  a-morrow  for  to  see  that  fight. 
Unto  their  reste  wente  they  at  night. 
And  on  the  morrow,  when  the  day  gan  spring. 
Of  horse  and  harness*  noise  and  clattering 
There  was  in  the  hostelries  all  about: 
And  to  the  palace  rode  there  many  a  rout* 
Of  lordes,  upon  steedes  and  palfreys. 
There  mayst  thou  see  devising*  of  harness 
So  uncouth*  and  so  rich,  and  wrought  so  weel 
Of  goldsmithry,  of  brouding*,  and  of  steel; 
The  shieldes  bright,  the  testers*,  and  trappures*' 
Gold-hewen  helmets,  hauberks,  coat-armures; 
Lordes  in  parements*  on  their  coursers, 
Knightes  of  retinue,  and  eke  squiers. 


*that 


train,  retinue 

*decoration 
*unkown,  rare 
*embroidery 
*helmets<73> 
**trappings 
*ornamental  garb  <74>; 


78 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Nailing  the  spears,  and  helmes  buckeling, 
Gniding*  of  shieldes,  with  lainers**  lacing; 
There  as  need  is,  they  were  nothing  idle: 
The  foamy  steeds  upon  the  golden  bridle 
Gnawing,  and  fast  the  armourers  also 
With  file  and  hammer  pricking  to  and  fro; 
Yeomen  on  foot,  and  knaves*  many  one 
With  shorte  staves,  thick*  as  they  may  gon**; 
Pipes,  trumpets,  nakeres*,  and  clariouns. 
That  in  the  battle  blowe  bloody  souns; 
The  palace  full  of  people  up  and  down. 
There  three,  there  ten,  holding  their  questioun*. 
Divining*  of  these  Theban  knightes  two. 
Some  saiden  thus,  some  said  it  shall  he  so; 
Some  helden  with  him  with  the  blacke  beard. 
Some  with  the  bald,  some  with  the  thick-hair'd; 
Some  said  he  looked  grim,  and  woulde  fight: 
He  had  a  sparth*  of  twenty  pound  of  weight. 
Thus  was  the  halle  full  of  divining* 
Long  after  that  the  sunne  gan  up  spring. 
The  great  Theseus  that  of  his  sleep  is  waked 
With  minstrelsy,  and  noise  that  was  maked. 
Held  yet  the  chamber  of  his  palace  rich. 
Till  that  the  Theban  knightes  both  y-lich* 
Honoured  were,  and  to  the  palace  fet*. 
Duke  Theseus  is  at  a  window  set. 
Array 'd  right  as  he  were  a  god  in  throne: 
The  people  presseth  thitherward  full  soon 
Him  for  to  see,  and  do  him  reverence. 
And  eke  to  hearken  his  best*  and  his  sentence**. 
An  herald  on  a  scaffold  made  an  0,<77> 
Till  the  noise  of  the  people  was  y-do*: 
And  when  he  saw  the  people  of  noise  all  still. 
Thus  shewed  he  the  mighty  Duke's  will. 


*polishing  <75> 
**lanyards 


servants 
*close  **walk 
*drums  <76> 


conversation 
*conjecturing 


*double-headed  axe 
^conjecturing 


*alike 
*fetched 


*command  **speech 
*done 


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79 


arrange,  contrive 


*kind  of 


"The  lord  hath  of  his  high  discretion 

Considered  that  it  were  destruction 

To  gentle  blood,  to  fighten  in  the  guise 

Of  mortal  battle  now  in  this  emprise: 

Wherefore  to  shape*  that  they  shall  not  die. 

He  will  his  firste  purpose  modify. 

No  man  therefore,  on  pain  of  loss  of  life. 

No  manner*  shot,  nor  poleaxe,  nor  short  knife 

Into  the  lists  shall  send,  or  thither  bring. 

Nor  short  sword  for  to  stick  with  point  biting 

No  man  shall  draw,  nor  bear  it  by  his  side. 

And  no  man  shall  unto  his  fellow  ride 

But  one  course,  with  a  sharp  y-grounden  spear: 

*Foin  if  him  list  on  foot,  himself  to  wear.  *He  who  wishes  can 

And  he  that  is  at  mischief  shall  be  take*,        fence  on  foot  to  defend 

And  not  slain,  but  be  brought  unto  the  stake,        himself,  and  he  that 

That  shall  be  ordained  on  either  side;       is  in  peril  shall  be  taken* 

Thither  he  shall  by  force,  and  there  abide. 

And  if  *so  fall*  the  chiefetain  be  take 

On  either  side,  or  elles  slay  his  make*. 

No  longer  then  the  tourneying  shall  last. 

God  speede  you;  go  forth  and  lay  on  fast. 

With  long  sword  and  with  mace  fight  your  fill. 

Go  now  your  way;  this  is  the  lordes  will. 

The  voice  of  the  people  touched  the  heaven. 

So  loude  cried  they  with  merry  Steven*: 

God  save  such  a  lord  that  is  so  good. 

He  willeth  no  destruction  of  blood. 


*should  happen* 
*equal,  match 


*sound 


Up  go  the  trumpets  and  the  melody. 

And  to  the  listes  rode  the  company 

*By  ordinance*,  throughout  the  city  large. 

Hanged  with  cloth  of  gold,  and  not  with  sarge* 

Full  like  a  lord  this  noble  Duke  gan  ride. 


*in  orderly  array* 
*serge  <78> 


80 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  these  twoThebans  upon  either  side: 


*between  6  &9  a.m. 


And  after  rode  the  queen  and  Emily, 

And  after  them  another  company 

Of  one  and  other,  after  their  degree. 

And  thus  they  passed  thorough  that  city 

And  to  the  listes  came  they  by  time: 

It  was  not  of  the  day  yet  fully  prime*. 

When  set  was  Theseus  full  rich  and  high, 

Hippolyta  the  queen  and  Emily, 

And  other  ladies  in  their  degrees  about. 

Unto  the  seates  presseth  all  the  rout. 

And  westward,  through  the  gates  under  Mart, 

Arcite,  and  eke  the  hundred  of  his  part. 

With  banner  red,  is  enter'd  right  anon; 

And  in  the  selve*  moment  Palamon 

Is,  under  Venus,  eastward  in  the  place. 

With  banner  white,  and  hardy  cheer*  and  face 

In  all  the  world,  to  seeken  up  and  down 

So  even*  without  variatioun 

There  were  such  companies  never  tway. 

For  there  was  none  so  wise  that  coulde  say 

That  any  had  of  other  avantage 

Of  worthiness,  nor  of  estate,  nor  age. 

So  even  were  they  chosen  for  to  guess. 

And  *in  two  ranges  faire  they  them  dress*.     *they  arranged  themselves 

When  that  their  names  read  were  every  one,  in  two  rows* 

That  in  their  number  guile*  were  there  none,  *fraud 

Then  were  the  gates  shut,  and  cried  was  loud; 

"Do  now  your  devoir,  younge  knights  proud 

The  heralds  left  their  pricking*  up  and  down      *spurring  their  horses 

Now  ring  the  trumpet  loud  and  clarioun. 

There  is  no  more  to  say,  but  east  and  west 

In  go  the  speares  sadly*  in  the  rest;  *steadily 


*s  elf- same 


expression 


*equal 


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In  go  the  sharpe  spurs  into  the  side. 

There  see  me  who  can  joust,  and  who  can  ride. 

There  shiver  shaftes  upon  shieldes  thick; 

He  feeleth  through  the  hearte-spoon<79>  the  prick. 

Up  spring  the  speares  twenty  foot  on  height; 

Out  go  the  swordes  as  the  silver  bright. 

The  helmes  they  to-hewen,  and  to-shred*;  *strike  in  pieces  <  80> 

Out  burst  the  blood,  with  sterne  streames  red. 

With  mighty  maces  the  bones  they  to-brest*.  *burst 

He  <81  >  through  the  thickest  of  the  throng  gan  threst*.  *thrust 

There  stumble  steedes  strong,  and  down  go  all. 

He  rolleth  under  foot  as  doth  a  ball. 

He  foineth*  on  his  foe  with  a  trunchoun. 

And  he  him  hurtleth  with  his  horse  adown. 

He  through  the  body  hurt  is,  and  *sith  take*, 

Maugre  his  head,  and  brought  unto  the  stake. 

As  forword*  was,  right  there  he  must  abide. 

Another  led  is  on  that  other  side. 

And  sometime  doth*  them  Theseus  to  rest. 

Them  to  refresh,  and  drinken  if  them  lest*. 

Full  oft  a  day  have  thilke  Thebans  two 

Together  met  and  wrought  each  other  woe: 

Unhorsed  hath  each  other  of  them  tway* 

There  is  no  tiger  in  the  vale  of  Galaphay,  <82> 

When  that  her  whelp  is  stole,  when  it  is  lite* 

So  cruel  on  the  hunter,  as  Arcite 

For  jealous  heart  upon  this  Palamon: 

Nor  in  Belmarie  <83>  there  is  no  fell  lion. 

That  hunted  is,  or  for  his  hunger  wood* 

Or  for  his  prey  desireth  so  the  blood. 

As  Palamon  to  slay  his  foe  Arcite. 

The  jealous  strokes  upon  their  helmets  bite; 

Out  runneth  blood  on  both  their  sides  red. 

Sometime  an  end  there  is  of  every  deed 


81 


*forces  himself 

*afterwards  captured* 

*covenant 

*caused 
*pleased 
*these 

*twice 

*little 


*mad 


82 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  ere  the  sun  unto  the  reste  went, 

The  stronge  king  Emetrius  gan  hent*  *sieze,  assail 

This  Palamon,  as  he  fought  with  Arcite, 

And  made  his  sword  deep  in  his  flesh  to  bite, 

And  by  the  force  of  twenty  is  he  take. 

Unyielding,  and  is  drawn  unto  the  stake. 

And  in  the  rescue  of  this  Palamon 

The  stronge  king  Licurgus  is  borne  down: 

And  king  Emetrius,  for  all  his  strength 

Is  borne  out  of  his  saddle  a  sword's  length. 

So  hit  him  Palamon  ere  he  were  take: 

But  all  for  nought;  he  was  brought  to  the  stake: 

His  hardy  hearte  might  him  helpe  naught. 

He  must  abide  when  that  he  was  caught. 

By  force,  and  eke  by  composition*.  *the  bargain 

Who  sorroweth  now  but  woful  Palamon 

That  must  no  more  go  again  to  fight? 

And  when  that  Theseus  had  seen  that  sight 

Unto  the  folk  that  foughte  thus  each  one. 

He  cried.  Ho!  no  more,  for  it  is  done! 

I  will  be  true  judge,  and  not  party. 

Arcite  of  Thebes  shall  have  Emily, 

That  by  his  fortune  hath  her  fairly  won." 

Anon  there  is  a  noise  of  people  gone. 

For  joy  of  this,  so  loud  and  high  withal. 

It  seemed  that  the  listes  shoulde  fall. 

What  can  now  faire  Venus  do  above? 

What  saith  she  now?  what  doth  this  queen  of  love? 

But  weepeth  so,  for  wanting  of  her  will. 

Till  that  her  teares  in  the  listes  fill*  *fall 

She  said:  "I  am  ashamed  doubteless." 

Saturnus  saide:  "Daughter,  hold  thy  peace. 

Mars  hath  his  will,  his  knight  hath  all  his  boon. 


rides  from  end  to  end* 


*generally* 


countenance 


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And  by  mine  head  thou  shalt  be  eased  soon." 

The  trumpeters  with  the  loud  minstrelsy. 

The  heralds,  that  full  loude  yell  and  cry. 

Be  in  their  joy  for  weal  of  Dan*  Arcite.  *Lord 

But  hearken  me,  and  stinte  noise  a  lite. 

What  a  miracle  there  befell  anon 

This  fierce  Arcite  hath  off  his  helm  y-done. 

And  on  a  courser  for  to  shew  his  face 

He  *pricketh  endelong*  the  large  place. 

Looking  upward  upon  this  Emily; 

And  she  again  him  cast  a  friendly  eye 

(For  women,  as  to  speaken  *in  commune*. 

They  follow  all  the  favour  of  fortune). 

And  was  all  his  in  cheer*,  as  his  in  heart. 

Out  of  the  ground  a  fire  infernal  start. 

From  Pluto  sent,  at  request  of  Saturn 

For  which  his  horse  for  fear  began  to  turn. 

And  leap  aside,  and  founder*  as  he  leap  *stumble 

And  ere  that  Arcite  may  take  any  keep*,  *care 

He  pight*  him  on  the  pummel**  of  his  head.  *pitched  **top 

That  in  the  place  he  lay  as  he  were  dead. 

His  breast  to-bursten  with  his  saddle-bow. 

As  black  he  lay  as  any  coal  or  crow. 

So  was  the  blood  y-run  into  his  face. 

Anon  he  was  y-borne  out  of  the  place 

With  hearte  sore,  to  Theseus' palace. 

Then  was  he  carven*  out  of  his  harness.  *cut 

And  in  a  bed  y-brought  full  fair  and  blive*  *quickly 

For  he  was  yet  in  mem'ry  and  alive. 

And  always  crying  after  Emily. 

Duke  Theseus,  with  all  his  company. 
Is  come  home  to  Athens  his  city. 
With  alle  bliss  and  great  solemnity. 


83 


84 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*befallen 
*discourage 


*glad 


Albeit  that  this  aventure  was  fall*, 

He  woulde  not  discomforte*  them  all 

Then  said  eke,  that  Arcite  should  not  die. 

He  should  be  healed  of  his  malady. 

And  of  another  thing  they  were  as  fain*. 

That  of  them  alle  was  there  no  one  slain. 

All*  were  they  sorely  hurt,  and  namely**  one,     *although  **especially 

That  with  a  spear  was  thirled*  his  breast-bone.  *pierced 

To  other  woundes,  and  to  broken  arms. 

Some  hadden  salves,  and  some  hadden  charms: 

And  pharmacies  of  herbs,  and  eke  save*         *sage.  Salvia  officinalis 

They  dranken,  for  they  would  their  lives  have. 

For  which  this  noble  Duke,  as  he  well  can, 

Comforteth  and  honoureth  every  man. 

And  made  revel  all  the  longe  night. 

Unto  the  strange  lordes,  as  was  right. 

Nor  there  was  holden  no  discomforting. 

But  as  at  jousts  or  at  a  tourneying; 

For  soothly  there  was  no  discomfiture. 

For  falling  is  not  but  an  aventure*.  *chance,  accident 

Nor  to  be  led  by  force  unto  a  stake 

Unyielding,  and  with  twenty  knights  y-take 

One  person  all  alone,  withouten  mo'. 

And  harried*  forth  by  armes,  foot,  and  toe,  *dragged,  hurried 

And  eke  his  steede  driven  forth  with  staves. 

With  footmen,  bothe  yeomen  and  eke  knaves*,  *servants 

It  was  *aretted  him  no  villainy:*  *counted  no  disgrace  to  him* 

There  may  no  man  *clepen  it  cowardy*.  *call  it  cowardice* 

For  which  anon  Duke  Theseus  *let  cry*,  —      *caused  to  be  proclaimed* 

To  stenten*  alle  rancour  and  envy,  —  *stop 

The  gree*  as  well  on  one  side  as  the  other,  *prize,  merit 

And  either  side  alike  as  other's  brother: 

And  gave  them  giftes  after  their  degree. 

And  held  a  feaste  fully  dayes  three: 


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And  conveyed  the  kinges  worthily 

Out  of  his  town  a  journee*  largely  *day's  journey 

And  home  went  every  man  the  righte  way. 

There  was  no  more  but  "Farewell,  Have  good  day." 

Of  this  bataille  I  will  no  more  indite 

But  speak  of  Palamon  and  of  Arcite. 

Swelleth  the  breast  of  Arcite  and  the  sore 

Increaseth  at  his  hearte  more  and  more. 

The  clotted  blood,  for  any  leache-craft*  *surgical  skill 

Corrupteth  and  is  *in  his  bouk  y-laft*  *left  in  his  body* 

That  neither  *veine  blood  nor  ventousing*,    *blood-letting  or  cupping* 

Nor  drink  of  herbes  may  be  his  helping. 

The  virtue  expulsive  or  animal. 

From  thilke  virtue  called  natural. 

Nor  may  the  venom  voide,  nor  expel 

The  pipes  of  his  lungs  began  to  swell 

And  every  lacert*  in  his  breast  adown  *sinew,  muscle 

Is  shent*  with  venom  and  corruption.  *destroyed 

Him  gaineth*  neither,  for  to  get  his  life,  *availeth 

Vomit  upward,  nor  downward  laxative; 

All  is  to-bursten  thilke  region; 

Nature  hath  now  no  domination. 

And  certainly  where  nature  will  not  wirch,*  *work 

Farewell  physic:  go  bear  the  man  to  chirch.*  *church 

This  all  and  some  is,  Arcite  must  die. 

For  which  he  sendeth  after  Emily, 

And  Palamon,  that  was  his  cousin  dear. 

Then  said  he  thus,  as  ye  shall  after  hear. 


"Nought  may  the  woful  spirit  in  mine  heart 
Declare  one  point  of  all  my  sorrows'  smart 
To  you,  my  lady,  that  I  love  the  most: 
But  I  bequeath  the  service  of  my  ghost 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 
86 

To  you  aboven  every  creature, 

Since  that  my  life  ne  may  no  longer  dure. 

Alas  the  woe!  alas,  the  paines  strong 

That  I  for  you  have  suffered  and  so  long! 

Alas  the  death,  alas,  mine  Emily! 

Alas  departing*  of  our  company!  *the  severance 

Alas,  mine  hearte's  queen!  alas,  my  wife! 

Mine  hearte's  lady,  ender  of  my  life! 

What  is  this  world?  what  aske  men  to  have? 

Now  with  his  love,  now  in  his  colde  grave 

Al  one,  withouten  any  company. 

Farewell,  my  sweet,  farewell,  mine  Emily, 

And  softly  take  me  in  your  armes  tway. 

For  love  of  God,  and  hearken  what  I  say. 

I  have  here  with  my  cousin  Palamon 

Had  strife  and  rancour  many  a  day  agone. 

For  love  of  you,  and  for  my  jealousy. 

And  Jupiter  so  *wis  my  soule  gie*. 

To  speaken  of  a  servant  properly. 

With  alle  circumstances  truely. 

That  is  to  say,  truth,  honour,  and  knighthead. 

Wisdom,  humbless*,  estate,  and  high  kindred. 

Freedom,  and  all  that  longeth  to  that  art. 

So  Jupiter  have  of  my  soul  part. 

As  in  this  world  right  now  I  know  not  one. 

So  worthy  to  be  lov'd  as  Palamon, 

That  serveth  you,  and  will  do  all  his  life. 

And  if  that  you  shall  ever  be  a  wife. 

Forget  not  Palamon,  the  gentle  man." 

And  with  that  word  his  speech  to  fail  began. 

For  from  his  feet  up  to  his  breast  was  come 

The  cold  of  death,  that  had  him  overnome*.  *overcome 

And  yet  moreover  in  his  armes  two 


^surely  guides  my  soul* 


*humility 


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The  vital  strength  is  lost,  and  all  ago*.  *gone 

Only  the  intellect,  withoute  more. 

That  dwelled  in  his  hearte  sick  and  sore, 

Gan  faile,  when  the  hearte  felte  death; 

Dusked*  his  eyen  two,  and  fail'd  his  breath.  *grew  dim 

But  on  his  lady  yet  he  cast  his  eye; 

His  laste  word  was;  "Mercy,  Emily!" 

His  spirit  changed  house,  and  wente  there. 

As  I  came  never  I  cannot  telle  where. <  84 > 

Therefore  I  stent*,  I  am  no  divinister**;  *refrain  **diviner 

Of  soules  fmd  I  nought  in  this  register. 

Ne  me  list  not  th'  opinions  to  tell 

Of  them,  though  that  they  writen  where  they  dwell; 

Arcite  is  cold,  there  Mars  his  soule  gie.*  *guide 

Now  will  I  speake  forth  of  Emily. 

Shriek'd  Emily,  and  howled  Palamon, 

And  Theseus  his  sister  took  anon 

Swooning,  and  bare  her  from  the  corpse  away. 

What  helpeth  it  to  tarry  forth  the  day. 

To  telle  how  she  wept  both  eve  and  morrow? 

For  in  such  cases  women  have  such  sorrow. 

When  that  their  husbands  be  from  them  y-go*,  *gone 

That  for  the  more  part  they  sorrow  so. 

Or  elles  fall  into  such  malady. 

That  at  the  laste  certainly  they  die. 

Infinite  be  the  sorrows  and  the  tears 

Of  olde  folk,  and  folk  of  tender  years. 

In  all  the  town,  for  death  of  this  Theban: 

For  him  there  weepeth  bothe  child  and  man. 

So  great  a  weeping  was  there  none  certain. 

When  Hector  was  y-brought,  all  fresh  y-slain. 

To  Troy:  alas!  the  pity  that  was  there. 

Scratching  of  cheeks,  and  rending  eke  of  hair. 


87 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


" Why  wouldest  thou  be  dead?"  these  women  cry, 

"And  haddest  gold  enough,  and  Emily." 

No  manner  man  might  gladden  Theseus, 

Saving  his  olde  father  Egeus, 

That  knew  this  worlde's  transmutatioun. 

As  he  had  seen  it  changen  up  and  down, 

Joy  after  woe,  and  woe  after  gladness; 

And  shewed  him  example  and  likeness. 

"Right  as  there  died  never  man,"  quoth  he, 

"That  he  ne  liv'd  in  earth  in  some  degree*,  *rank,  condition 

Right  so  there  lived  never  man,"  he  said, 

"In  all  this  world,  that  sometime  be  not  died. 

This  world  is  but  a  throughfare  full  of  woe. 

And  we  be  pilgrims,  passing  to  and  fro: 

Death  is  an  end  of  every  worldly  sore." 

And  over  all  this  said  he  yet  much  more 

To  this  effect,  full  wisely  to  exhort 

The  people,  that  they  should  them  recomfort. 

Duke  Theseus,  with  all  his  busy  cure*,  *care 

*Casteth  about*,  where  that  the  sepulture  *deliberates* 

Of  good  Arcite  may  best  y-maked  be. 

And  eke  most  honourable  in  his  degree. 

And  at  the  last  he  took  conclusion. 

That  there  as  first  Arcite  and  Palamon 

Hadde  for  love  the  battle  them  between. 

That  in  that  selve*  grove,  sweet  and  green,  *self-same 

There  as  he  had  his  amorous  desires. 

His  complaint,  and  for  love  his  bote  fires. 

He  woulde  make  a  fire*,  in  which  th'  office  *funeral  pyre 

Of  funeral  he  might  all  accomplice; 

And  *let  anon  command*  to  hack  and  hew         *immediately  gave  orders* 

The  oakes  old,  and  lay  them  *on  a  rew*  *in  a  row* 

In  culpons*,  well  arrayed  for  to  brenne**.  *logs  **burn 

His  officers  with  swifte  feet  they  renne*  *run 


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89 


And  ride  anon  at  his  commandement. 

And  after  this,  Duke  Theseus  hath  sent 

After  a  bier,  and  it  all  oversprad 

With  cloth  of  gold,  the  richest  that  he  had; 

And  of  the  same  suit  he  clad  Arcite. 

Upon  his  handes  were  his  gloves  white. 

Eke  on  his  head  a  crown  of  laurel  green. 

And  in  his  hand  a  sword  full  bright  and  keen. 

He  laid  him  *bare  the  visage*  on  the  bier,  *with  face  uncovered* 

Therewith  he  wept,  that  pity  was  to  hear. 

And,  for  the  people  shoulde  see  him  all. 

When  it  was  day  he  brought  them  to  the  hall. 

That  roareth  of  the  crying  and  the  soun'. 

Then  came  this  wofulTheban,  Palamon, 

With  sluttery  beard,  and  ruggy  ashy  hairs,  <  85  > 

In  clothes  black,  y-dropped  all  with  tears. 

And  (passing  over  weeping  Emily) 

The  ruefullest  of  all  the  company. 

And  *inasmuch  as*  the  service  should  be  *in  order  that* 

The  more  noble  and  rich  in  its  degree, 

Duke  Theseus  let  forth  three  steedes  bring. 

That  trapped  were  in  steel  all  glittering. 

And  covered  with  the  arms  of  Dan  Arcite. 

Upon  these  steedes,  that  were  great  and  white. 

There  satte  folk,  of  whom  one  bare  his  shield. 

Another  his  spear  in  his  handes  held; 

The  thirde  bare  with  him  his  bowTurkeis*,  *Turkish. 

Of  brent*  gold  was  the  case**  and  the  harness:       *burnished  **quiver 

And  ride  forth  *a  pace*  with  sorrowful  cheer**  *at  a  foot  pace* 

Toward  the  grove,  as  ye  shall  after  hear.  **expression 


The  noblest  of  the  Greekes  that  there  were 
Upon  their  shoulders  carried  the  bier. 
With  slacke  pace,  and  eyen  red  and  wet. 


90 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Throughout  the  city,  by  the  master*  street,  *main  <86> 

That  spread  was  all  with  black,  and  wondrous  high 

Right  of  the  same  is  all  the  street  y-wrie.*  *covered  <87> 

Upon  the  right  hand  went  old  Egeus, 

And  on  the  other  side  Duke  Theseus, 

With  vessels  in  their  hand  of  gold  full  fme. 

All  full  of  honey,  milk,  and  blood,  and  wine; 

Eke  Palamon,  with  a  great  company; 

And  after  that  came  woful  Emily, 

With  fire  in  hand,  as  was  that  time  the  guise*,  *custom 

To  do  th'  office  of  funeral  service. 


*reached 
*stretched 


*were  called 


High  labour,  and  full  great  appareling*  *preparation 

Was  at  the  service,  and  the  pyre-making. 

That  with  its  greene  top  the  heaven  raught*. 

And  twenty  fathom  broad  its  armes  straught*: 

This  is  to  say,  the  boughes  were  so  broad. 

Of  straw  first  there  was  laid  many  a  load. 

But  how  the  pyre  was  maked  up  on  height. 

And  eke  the  names  how  the  trees  hight*. 

As  oak,  fir,  birch,  asp*,  alder,  holm,  poplere,  *aspen 

Willow,  elm,  plane,  ash,  box,  chestnut,  lind*,  laurere,     *linden,  lime 

Maple,  thorn,  beech,  hazel,  yew,  whipul  tree. 

How  they  were  fell'd,  shall  not  be  told  for  me; 

Nor  how  the  goddes*  rannen  up  and  down  *the  forest  deities 

Disinherited  of  their  habitatioun. 

In  which  they  wonned*  had  in  rest  and  peace,  *dwelt 

Nymphes,  Faunes,  and  Hamadryades; 

Nor  how  the  beastes  and  the  birdes  all 

Fledden  for  feare,  when  the  wood  gan  fall; 

Nor  how  the  ground  aghast*  was  of  the  light,  *terrified 

That  was  not  wont  to  see  the  sunne  bright; 

Nor  how  the  fire  was  couched*  first  with  stre**,  *laid  **straw 

And  then  with  dry  stickes  cloven  in  three. 


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And  then  with  greene  wood  and  spicery*,  *spices 

And  then  with  cloth  of  gold  and  with  pierrie*,  *precious  stones 

And  garlands  hanging  with  full  many  a  flower. 

The  myrrh,  the  incense  with  so  sweet  odour; 

Nor  how  Arcita  lay  among  all  this. 

Nor  what  richess  about  his  body  is; 

Nor  how  that  Emily,  as  was  the  guise*,  *custom 

*Put  in  the  fire*  of  funeral  service<88>;  *appplied  the  torch* 

Nor  how  she  swooned  when  she  made  the  fire. 

Nor  what  she  spake,  nor  what  was  her  desire; 

Nor  what  jewels  men  in  the  fire  then  cast 

When  that  the  fire  was  great  and  burned  fast; 


91 


Nor  how  some  cast  their  shield,  and  some  their  spear. 

And  of  their  vestiments,  which  that  they  wear. 

And  cuppes  full  of  wine,  and  milk,  and  blood, 

Into  the  fire,  that  burnt  as  it  were  wood*; 

Nor  how  the  Greekes  with  a  huge  rout* 

Three  times  riden  all  the  fire  about  <89> 

Upon  the  left  hand,  with  a  loud  shouting. 

And  thries  with  their  speares  clattering; 

And  thries  how  the  ladies  gan  to  cry; 

Nor  how  that  led  was  homeward  Emily; 

Nor  how  Arcite  is  burnt  to  ashes  cold; 

Nor  how  the  lyke-wake*  was  y-hold 

All  thilke*  night,  nor  how  the  Greekes  play 

The  wake-plays*,  ne  keep**  I  not  to  say: 

Who  wrestled  best  naked,  with  oil  anoint. 

Nor  who  that  bare  him  best  *in  no  disjoint 

I  will  not  tell  eke  how  they  all  are  gone 

Home  to  Athenes  when  the  play  is  done; 

But  shortly  to  the  point  now  will  I  wend*. 

And  maken  of  my  longe  tale  an  end. 


*mad 
*procession 


*wake  <90> 
*that 
funeral  games  **care 

*in  any  contest* 


92 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


By  process  and  by  length  of  certain  years 

All  stinted*  is  the  mourning  and  the  tears  *ended 

Of  Greekes,  by  one  general  assent. 

Then  seemed  me  there  was  a  parlement 

At  Athens,  upon  certain  points  and  cas*:  *cases 

Amonge  the  which  points  y-spoken  was 

To  have  with  certain  countries  alliance, 

And  have  ofThebans  full  obeisance. 

For  which  this  noble  Theseus  anon 

Let*  send  after  the  gentle  Palamon, 

Unwist*  of  him  what  was  the  cause  and  why: 

But  in  his  blacke  clothes  sorrowfully 

He  came  at  his  commandment  *on  hie*; 

Then  sente  Theseus  for  Emily. 

When  they  were  set*,  and  hush'd  was  all  the  place 

And  Theseus  abided*  had  a  space 

Ere  any  word  came  from  his  wise  breast 

*His  eyen  set  he  there  as  was  his  lest*,  *he  cast 

And  with  a  sad  visage  he  sighed  still,  wherever 

And  after  that  right  thus  he  said  his  will. 

"The  firste  mover  of  the  cause  above 

When  he  first  made  the  faire  chain  of  love. 

Great  was  th'  effect,  and  high  was  his  intent; 

Well  wist  he  why,  and  what  thereof  he  meant: 

For  with  that  faire  chain  of  love  he  bond*  *bound 

The  fire,  the  air,  the  water,  and  the  lond 

In  certain  bondes,  that  they  may  not  flee:  <  91  > 

That  same  prince  and  mover  eke,"  quoth  he, 

"Hath  stablish'd,  in  this  wretched  world  adown. 

Certain  of  dayes  and  duration 

To  all  that  are  engender'd  in  this  place. 

Over  the  whiche  day  they  may  not  pace*,  *pass 

All  may  they  yet  their  dayes  well  abridge. 

There  needeth  no  authority  to  allege 


*caused 

*unknown 

*in  haste* 

*seated 
*waited 

his  eyes 
he  pleased* 


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93 


For  it  is  proved  by  experience; 
But  that  me  list  declare  my  sentence*. 
Then  may  men  by  this  order  well  discern. 
That  thilke*  mover  stable  is  and  etern. 
Well  may  men  know,  but  that  it  be  a  fool. 
That  every  part  deriveth  from  its  whole. 
For  nature  hath  not  ta'en  its  beginning 
Of  no  *partie  nor  cantle*  of  a  thing. 
But  of  a  thing  that  perfect  is  and  stable. 
Descending  so,  till  it  be  corruptable. 
And  therefore  of  His  wise  purveyance* 
He  hath  so  well  beset*  his  ordinance. 
That  species  of  things  and  progressions 
Shallen  endure  by  successions. 
And  not  etern,  withouten  any  lie: 
This  mayst  thou  understand  and  see  at  eye. 
Lo  th'  oak,  that  hath  so  long  a  nourishing 
From  the  time  that  it  'ginneth  first  to  spring. 
And  hath  so  long  a  life,  as  ye  may  see. 
Yet  at  the  last  y-wasted  is  the  tree. 
Consider  eke,  how  that  the  harde  stone 
Under  our  feet,  on  which  we  tread  and  gon*. 
Yet  wasteth,  as  it  lieth  by  the  way. 
The  broade  river  some  time  waxeth  drey*. 
The  greate  townes  see  we  wane  and  wend*. 
Then  may  ye  see  that  all  things  have  an  end. 
Of  man  and  woman  see  we  well  also,  — 
That  needes  in  one  of  the  termes  two,  — 
That  is  to  say,  in  youth  or  else  in  age,- 
He  must  be  dead,  the  king  as  shall  a  page; 
Some  in  his  bed,  some  in  the  deepe  sea. 
Some  in  the  large  field,  as  ye  may  see: 
There  helpeth  nought,  all  go  that  ilke*  way: 
Then  may  I  say  that  alle  thing  must  die. 


opinion 


*the  same 


part  or  piece 


*providence 


*walk 

*dry 
*go,  disappear 


94 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


escape 

*murmurs  at 
'direct,  guide 


certain 

*himself 


What  maketh  this  but  Jupiter  the  king? 

The  which  is  prince,  and  cause  of  alle  thing. 

Converting  all  unto  his  proper  will. 

From  which  it  is  derived,  sooth  to  tell 

And  hereagainst  no  creature  alive. 

Of  no  degree,  availeth  for  to  strive. 

Then  is  it  wisdom,  as  it  thinketh  me. 

To  make  a  virtue  of  necessity. 

And  take  it  well,  that  we  may  not  eschew*. 

And  namely  what  to  us  all  is  due. 

And  whoso  grudgeth*  ought,  he  doth  folly. 

And  rebel  is  to  him  that  all  may  gie*. 

And  certainly  a  man  hath  most  honour 

To  dien  in  his  excellence  and  flower. 

When  he  is  sicker*  of  his  goode  name. 

Then  hath  he  done  his  friend,  nor  him*,  no  shame 

And  gladder  ought  his  friend  be  of  his  death. 

When  with  honour  is  yielded  up  his  breath. 

Than  when  his  name  *appalled  is  for  age*;  *decayed  by  old  age* 

For  all  forgotten  is  his  vassalage*.  *valour,  service 

Then  is  it  best,  as  for  a  worthy  fame. 

To  dien  when  a  man  is  best  of  name. 

The  contrary  of  all  this  is  wilfulness. 

Why  grudge  we,  why  have  we  heaviness. 

That  good  Arcite,  of  chivalry  the  flower. 

Departed  is,  with  duty  and  honour. 

Out  of  this  foule  prison  of  this  life? 

Why  grudge  here  his  cousin  and  his  wife 

Of  his  welfare,  that  loved  him  so  well? 

Can  he  them  thank?  nay,  God  wot,  neverdeal*,  —  *not  a  jot 

That  both  his  soul  and  eke  themselves  offend*,  *hurt 

And  yet  they  may  their  lustes*  not  amend**.  *desires  **control 

What  may  I  conclude  of  this  longe  serie*,  *string  of  remarks 

But  after  sorrow  I  rede*  us  to  be  merry,  *counsel 


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95 


And  thanke  Jupiter  for  all  his  grace? 

And  ere  that  we  departe  from  this  place, 

I  rede  that  we  make  of  sorrows  two 

One  perfect  joye  lasting  evermo': 

And  look  now  where  most  sorrow  is  herein. 

There  will  I  first  amenden  and  begin. 

"Sister,"  quoth  he,  "this  is  my  full  assent. 

With  all  th'  advice  here  of  my  parlement. 

That  gentle  Palamon,  your  owen  knight. 

That  serveth  you  with  will,  and  heart,  and  might. 

And  ever  hath,  since  first  time  ye  him  knew. 

That  ye  shall  of  your  grace  upon  him  rue*. 

And  take  him  for  your  husband  and  your  lord: 

Lend  me  your  hand,  for  this  is  our  accord. 

*Let  see*  now  of  your  womanly  pity. 

He  is  a  kinge's  brother's  son,  pardie*. 

And  though  he  were  a  poore  bachelere. 

Since  he  hath  served  you  so  many  a  year. 

And  had  for  you  so  great  adversity. 

It  muste  be  considered,  *'lieveth  me*. 

For  gentle  mercy  *oweth  to  passen  right*."  * 

Then  said  he  thus  to  Palamon  the  knight; 

"I  trow  there  needeth  little  sermoning 

To  make  you  assente  to  this  thing. 

Come  near,  and  take  your  lady  by  the  hand." 

Betwixte  them  was  made  anon  the  band. 

That  hight  matrimony  or  marriage. 

By  all  the  counsel  of  the  baronage. 

And  thus  with  alle  bliss  and  melody 

Hath  Palamon  y- wedded  Emily. 

And  God,  that  all  this  wide  world  hath  wrought. 

Send  him  his  love,  that  hath  it  dearly  bought. 

For  now  is  Palamon  in  all  his  weal. 

Living  in  bliss,  in  riches,  and  in  heal*. 


*take  pity 


*make  display* 
*by  God 


*believe  me* 
ought  to  be  rightly 
directed* 


*health 


96 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  Emily  him  loves  so  tenderly, 

And  he  her  serveth  all  so  gentilly, 

That  never  was  there  worde  them  between 

Of  jealousy,  nor  of  none  other  teen*. 

Thus  endeth  Palamon  and  Emily 

And  God  save  all  this  faire  company 


*cause  of  anger 


^ 


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97 


ne^ym/m 


When  that  the  Knight  had  thus  his  tale  told 

In  all  the  rout  was  neither  young  nor  old. 

That  he  not  said  it  was  a  noble  story. 

And  worthy  to  be  *drawen  to  memory*;  *recorded* 

And  *namely  the  gentles*  every  one.  *especially  the  gentlefolk* 

Our  Host  then  laugh'd  and  swore,  "So  may  I  gon,*  *prosper 

This  goes  aright;  *unbuckled  is  the  mail;*        *the  budget  is  opened* 

Let  see  now  who  shall  tell  another  tale: 

For  truely  this  game  is  well  begun. 

Now  telleth  ye.  Sir  Monk,  if  that  ye  conne*. 

Somewhat,  to  quiten*  with  the  Knighte's  tale." 

The  Miller  that  fordrunken  was  all  pale. 

So  that  unnethes*  upon  his  horse  he  sat. 

He  would  avalen*  neither  hood  nor  hat. 

Nor  abide*  no  man  for  his  courtesy. 

But  in  Pilate's  voice <  1  >  he  gan  to  cry. 

And  swore  by  armes,  and  by  blood,  and  bones, 

"I  can  a  noble  tale  for  the  nones* 

With  which  I  will  now  quite*  the  Knighte's  tale." 

Our  Host  saw  well  how  drunk  he  was  of  ale. 

And  said;  "Robin,  abide,  my  leve*  brother,  *dear 

Some  better  man  shall  tell  us  first  another: 

Abide,  and  let  us  worke  thriftily." 


*know 
*match 

*with  difficulty 
*uncover 
*give  way  to 


occasion, 

*match 


98 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


By  Godde's  soul,"  quoth  he,  "that  will  not  I, 

For  I  will  speak,  or  elles  go  my  way!" 

Our  Host  answer'd;  "*Tell  on  a  devil  way*;  *devil  take  you!* 

Thou  art  a  fool;  thy  wit  is  overcome." 

"Now  hearken,"  quoth  the  Miller,  "all  and  some: 

But  first  I  make  a  protestatioun. 

That  I  am  drunk,  I  know  it  by  my  soun': 

And  therefore  if  that  I  misspeak  or  say, 

*Wite  it*  the  ale  of  Southwark,  I  you  pray:  *blame  it  on*<2> 

For  I  will  tell  a  legend  and  a  life 

Both  of  a  carpenter  and  of  his  wife. 

How  that  a  clerk  hath  *set  the  wrighte's  cap*."   *fooled  the  carpenter* 

The  Reeve  answer'd  and  saide,  "*Stint  thy  clap*,      *hold  your  tongue* 

Let  be  thy  lewed  drunken  harlotry. 

It  is  a  sin,  and  eke  a  great  folly 

To  apeiren*  any  man,  or  him  defame,  *injure 

And  eke  to  bringe  wives  in  evil  name. 

Thou  may  St  enough  of  other  thinges  sayn." 

This  drunken  Miller  spake  full  soon  again. 

And  saide,  "Leve  brother  Osewold, 

Who  hath  no  wife,  he  is  no  cuckold. 

But  I  say  not  therefore  that  thou  art  one; 

There  be  full  goode  wives  many  one. 

Why  art  thou  angry  with  my  tale  now? 

I  have  a  wife,  pardie,  as  well  as  thou. 

Yet  *n'old  I*,  for  the  oxen  in  my  plough,  *I  would  not* 

Taken  upon  me  more  than  enough. 

To  deemen*  of  myself  that  I  am  one;  *j^dge 

I  will  believe  well  that  I  am  none. 

An  husband  should  not  be  inquisitive 

Of  Godde's  privity,  nor  of  his  wife. 

So  he  may  fmde  Godde's  foison*  there,  *treasure 

Of  the  remnant  needeth  not  to  enquere." 


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What  should  I  more  say,  but  that  this  Millere 

He  would  his  wordes  for  no  man  forbear. 

But  told  his  churlish*  tale  in  his  mannere;  *boorish,  rude 

Me  thinketh,  that  I  shall  rehearse  it  here. 

And  therefore  every  gentle  wight  I  pray. 

For  Godde's  love  to  deem  not  that  I  say 

Of  evil  intent,  but  that  I  must  rehearse 

Their  tales  all,  be  they  better  or  worse. 

Or  elles  falsen*  some  of  my  mattere.  *falsify 

And  therefore  whoso  list  it  not  to  hear. 

Turn  o'er  the  leaf,  and  choose  another  tale; 

For  he  shall  fmd  enough,  both  great  and  smale. 

Of  storial*  thing  that  toucheth  gentiless,  *historical,  true 

And  eke  morality  and  holiness. 

Blame  not  me,  if  that  ye  choose  amiss. 

The  Miller  is  a  churl,  ye  know  well  this. 

So  was  the  Reeve,  with  many  other  mo'. 

And  harlotry*  they  tolde  bothe  two.  *ribald  tales 

*Avise  you*  now,  and  put  me  out  of  blame;  *be  warned* 

And  eke  men  should  not  make  earnest  of  game*.  *jest,  fun 


99 


The  Tale. 


Whilom  there  was  dwelling  in  Oxenford 

A  riche  gnoP,  that  *guestes  held  to  board*,    *miser  *took  in  boarders* 

And  of  his  craft  he  was  a  carpenter. 

With  him  there  was  dwelling  a  poor  scholer. 

Had  learned  art,  but  all  his  fantasy 

Was  turned  for  to  learn  astrology. 

He  coude*  a  certain  of  conclusions  *knew 

To  deeme*  by  interrogations,  *determine 

If  that  men  asked  him  in  certain  hours. 

When  that  men  should  have  drought  or  elles  show'rs: 


100 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Or  if  men  asked  him  what  shoulde  fall 
Of  everything,  I  may  not  reckon  all. 


This  clerk  was  called  Hendy*  Nicholas;  *gentle,  handsome 

Of  derne*  love  he  knew  and  of  solace;  *secret,  earnest 

And  therewith  he  was  sly  and  full  privy, 
And  like  a  maiden  meek  for  to  see. 
A  chamber  had  he  in  that  hostelry 
Alone,  withouten  any  company. 

Full  *fetisly  y-dight*  with  herbes  swoot*,  *neatly  decorated* 

And  he  himself  was  sweet  as  is  the  root  *sweet 

Of  liquorice,  or  any  setewall*.  Valerian 

His  Almagest, <  1  >  and  bookes  great  and  small. 
His  astrolabe,<2>  belonging  to  his  art. 
His  augrim  stones,<3>  layed  fair  apart 

On  shelves  couched*  at  his  bedde's  head,  *laid,  set 

His  press  y-cover'd  with  a  falding*  red.  *coarse  cloth 

And  all  above  there  lay  a  gay  psalt'ry 
On  which  he  made  at  nightes  melody. 
So  sweetely,  that  all  the  chamber  rang: 
And  Angelus  ad  virginem<4>  he  sang. 
And  after  that  he  sung  the  kinge's  note; 
Full  often  blessed  was  his  merry  throat. 
And  thus  this  sweete  clerk  his  time  spent 

After  *his  friendes  fmding  and  his  rent.*    *Attending  to  his  friends, 

and  providing  for  the 
cost  of  his  lodging* 
This  carpenter  had  wedded  new  a  wife. 
Which  that  he  loved  more  than  his  life: 
Of  eighteen  year,  I  guess,  she  was  of  age. 
Jealous  he  was,  and  held  her  narr'w  in  cage. 
For  she  was  wild  and  young,  and  he  was  old. 
And  deemed  himself  belike*  a  cuckold.  *perhaps 

He  knew  not  Cato,<5>  for  his  wit  was  rude, 


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101 


That  bade  a  man  wed  his  similitude. 

Men  shoulde  wedden  after  their  estate. 

For  youth  and  eld*  are  often  at  debate. 

But  since  that  he  was  fallen  in  the  snare. 

He  must  endure  (as  other  folk)  his  care. 

Fair  was  this  younge  wife,  and  therewithal 

As  any  weasel  her  body  gent*  and  small. 

A  seint*  she  weared,  barred  all  of  silk, 

A  barm-cloth*  eke  as  white  as  morning  milk 

Upon  her  lendes*,  full  of  many  a  gore**. 

White  was  her  smock*,  and  broider'd  all  before. 

And  eke  behind,  on  her  collar  about 

Of  coal-black  silk,  within  and  eke  without. 

The  tapes  of  her  white  volupere* 

Were  of  the  same  suit  of  her  collere; 

Her  fillet  broad  of  silk,  and  set  full  high: 

And  sickerly*  she  had  a  likerous**  eye.  ^ 

Full  small  y-pulled  were  her  browes  two. 

And  they  were  bent*,  and  black  as  any  sloe. 

She  was  well  more  *blissful  on  to  see* 

Than  is  the  newe  perjenete*  tree; 

And  softer  than  the  wool  is  of  a  wether. 

And  by  her  girdle  hung  a  purse  of  leather, 

Tassel'd  with  silk,  and  *pearled  with  latoun*. 

In  all  this  world  to  seeken  up  and  down 

There  is  no  man  so  wise,  that  coude  thenche* 

So  gay  a  popelot*,  or  such  a  wench. 

Full  brighter  was  the  shining  of  her  hue. 

Than  in  the  Tower  the  noble*  forged  new. 

But  of  her  song,  it  was  as  loud  and  yern*. 

As  any  swallow  chittering  on  a  bern*. 

Thereto*  she  coulde  skip,  and  *make  a  game* 

As  any  kid  or  calf  following  his  dame. 

Her  mouth  was  sweet  as  braket,<ll>  or  as  methe^ 


*loi 


age 


""slim,  neat 
girdle 

*apron<6> 
ins  **plait 
*robe  or  gown 


head-kerchief  <7> 


certainly  **lascivious 

*arched 
*pleasant  to  look  upon* 
*young  pear-tree 


'set  with  brass  pearls* 

*fancy,  think  of 
*puppet  <8> 

*agold  coin  <9> 
*lively<10> 

*barn 

*also  *romp* 


*mead 


102 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Or  hoard  of  apples,  laid  in  hay  or  heath. 
Wincing*  she  was  as  is  a  jolly  colt, 
Long  as  a  mast,  and  upright  as  a  bolt. 
A  brooch  she  bare  upon  her  low  collere. 
As  broad  as  is  the  boss  of  a  bucklere. 
Her  shoon  were  laced  on  her  legges  high; 
She  was  a  primerole,*  a  piggesnie  <12>, 
For  any  lord  t'  have  ligging*  in  his  bed. 
Or  yet  for  any  good  yeoman  to  wed. 


*skittish 


primrose 
nying 


Now,  sir,  and  eft*  sir,  so  befell  the  case. 
That  on  a  day  this  Hendy  Nicholas 
Fell  with  this  younge  wife  to  rage*  and  play. 
While  that  her  husband  was  at  Oseney,<13> 
As  clerkes  be  full  subtle  and  full  quaint. 
And  privily  he  caught  her  by  the  queint,* 
And  said;  "Y-wis,*  but  if  I  have  my  will. 
For  *derne  love  of  thee,  leman,  I  spill.' 
And  helde  her  fast  by  the  haunche  bones. 
And  saide  "Leman,  love  me  well  at  once. 
Or  I  will  dien,  all  so  God  me  save." 
And  she  sprang  as  a  colt  doth  in  the  trave<14> 
And  with  her  head  she  writhed  fast  away. 
And  said;  "I  will  not  kiss  thee,  by  my  fay*. 
Why  let  be,"  quoth  she,  "let  be,  Nicholas, 
Or  I  will  cry  out  harow  and  alas!  <  15  > 
Do  away  your  handes,  for  your  courtesy." 
This  Nicholas  gan  mercy  for  to  cry. 
And  spake  so  fair,  and  proffer 'd  him  so  fast. 
That  she  her  love  him  granted  at  the  last. 
And  swore  her  oath  by  Saint  Thomas  of  Kent, 
That  she  would  be  at  his  commandement. 
When  that  she  may  her  leisure  well  espy. 
"My  husband  is  so  full  of  jealousy. 


agam 


*toy,  play  the  rogue 


''cunt 
*assuredly 
for  earnest  love  of  thee 
my  mistress,  I  perish* 


*faith 


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That  but*  ye  waite  well,  and  be  privy,  *unless 

I  wot  right  well  I  am  but  dead,"  quoth  she. 

"Ye  muste  be  full  derne*  as  in  this  case."  *secret 

"Nay,  thereof  care  thee  nought,"  quoth  Nicholas: 

"A  clerk  had  *litherly  beset  his  while*,  *ill  spent  his  time* 


*But  iP  he  could  a  carpenter  beguile." 
And  thus  they  were  accorded  and  y-sworn 
To  wait  a  time,  as  I  have  said  beforn. 
When  Nicholas  had  done  thus  every  deal*. 
And  thwacked  her  about  the  lendes*  well. 
He  kiss'd  her  sweet,  and  taketh  his  psalt'ry 
And  playeth  fast,  and  maketh  melody. 
Then  fell  it  thus,  that  to  the  parish  church. 
Of  Christe's  owen  workes  for  to  wirch*. 
This  good  wife  went  upon  a  holy  day; 
Her  forehead  shone  as  bright  as  any  day. 
So  was  it  washen,  when  she  left  her  werk. 


*unless 


*whit 
*loins 


v^ork 


103 


Now  was  there  of  that  church  a  parish  clerk. 

The  which  that  was  y-cleped  Absolon. 

Curl'd  was  his  hair,  and  as  the  gold  it  shone. 

And  strutted*  as  a  fanne  large  and  broad;  *stretched 

Full  straight  and  even  lay  his  jolly  shode*.  *head  of  hair 

His  rode*  was  red,  his  eyen  grey  as  goose,  *complexion 

With  Paule's  windows  carven  on  his  shoes  <  16> 

In  hosen  red  he  went  full  fetisly*.  *daintily,  neatly 

Y-clad  he  was  full  small  and  properly. 

All  in  a  kirtle*  of  a  light  waget*;  *girdle  **sky  blue 

Full  fair  and  thicke  be  the  pointes  set. 

And  thereupon  he  had  a  gay  surplice. 

As  white  as  is  the  blossom  on  the  rise*.  *twig  <  17> 

A  merry  child  he  was,  so  God  me  save; 

Well  could  he  letten  blood,  and  clip,  and  shave. 

And  make  a  charter  of  land,  and  a  quittance. 


104 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


In  twenty  manners  could  he  trip  and  dance, 

After  the  school  of  Oxenforde  tho*,  <  1 8  >  *then 

And  with  his  legges  caste  to  and  fro; 

And  playen  songes  on  a  small  ribible*;  *fiddle 

Thereto  he  sung  sometimes  a  loud  quinible*  *treble 

And  as  well  could  he  play  on  a  gitern.*  *guitar 

In  all  the  town  was  brewhouse  nor  tavern, 

That  he  not  visited  with  his  solas*,  *mirth,  sport 

There  as  that  any  *garnard  tapstere*  was.  *licentious  barmaid* 

But  sooth  to  say  he  was  somedeal  squaimous*  *squeamish 

Of  farting,  and  of  speeche  dangerous. 

This  Absolon,  that  jolly  was  and  gay. 

Went  with  a  censer  on  the  holy  day. 

Censing*  the  wives  of  the  parish  fast;  *burning  incense  for 

And  many  a  lovely  look  he  on  them  cast. 

And  namely*  on  this  carpenter's  wife:  *especially 

To  look  on  her  him  thought  a  merry  life. 

She  was  so  proper,  and  sweet,  and  likerous. 

I  dare  well  say,  if  she  had  been  a  mouse. 

And  he  a  cat,  he  would  *her  hent  anon*.  *have  soon  caught  her* 

This  parish  clerk,  this  jolly  Absolon, 

Hath  in  his  hearte  such  a  love-longing! 

That  of  no  wife  took  he  none  offering; 

For  courtesy  he  said  he  woulde  none. 

The  moon  at  night  full  clear  and  brighte  shone. 

And  Absolon  his  gitern  hath  y-taken. 

For  paramours  he  thoughte  for  to  waken. 

And  forth  he  went,  joliP  and  amorous,  *joyous 

Till  he  came  to  the  carpentere's  house, 

A  little  after  the  cock  had  y-crow. 

And  *dressed  him*  under  a  shot  window  <19>,         *stationed  himself.* 

That  was  upon  the  carpentere's  wall. 

He  singeth  in  his  voice  gentle  and  small; 

"Now,  dear  lady,  if  thy  will  be. 


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I  pray  that  ye  will  rue*  on  me;" 
Full  well  accordant  to  his  giterning. 
This  carpenter  awoke,  and  heard  him  sing. 
And  spake  unto  his  wife,  and  said  anon. 
What  Alison,  hear'st  thou  not  Absolon, 
That  chanteth  thus  under  our  bower*  wall?" 
And  she  answer 'd  her  husband  therewithal; 
"Yes,  God  wot,  John,  I  hear  him  every  deal." 
This  passeth  forth;  what  will  ye  bet*  than  well? 


105 


*take  pity 


*chamber 


*better 


quavermg 


*cakes  **coals 


From  day  to  day  this  jolly  Absolon 

So  wooeth  her,  that  him  is  woebegone. 

He  waketh  all  the  night,  and  all  the  day. 

To  comb  his  lockes  broad,  and  make  him  gay. 

He  wooeth  her  *by  means  and  by  brocage*,     *by  presents  and  by  agents* 

And  swore  he  woulde  be  her  owen  page. 

He  singeth  brokking*  as  a  nightingale. 

He  sent  her  piment  <20>,  mead,  and  spiced  ale. 

And  wafers*  piping  hot  out  of  the  glede**: 

And,  for  she  was  of  town,  he  proffer'd  meed.<21> 

For  some  folk  will  be  wonnen  for  ri chess. 

And  some  for  strokes,  and  some  with  gentiless. 

Sometimes,  to  show  his  lightness  and  mast'ry. 

He  playeth  Herod  <22>  on  a  scaffold  high. 

But  what  availeth  him  as  in  this  case? 

So  loveth  she  the  Hendy  Nicholas, 

That  Absolon  may  *blow  the  bucke's  horn*: 

He  had  for  all  his  labour  but  a  scorn. 

And  thus  she  maketh  Absolon  her  ape. 

And  all  his  earnest  turneth  to  a  jape*.  *jest 

Full  sooth  is  this  proverb,  it  is  no  lie; 

Men  say  right  thus  alway;  the  nighe  sly 

Maketh  oft  time  the  far  lief  to  be  loth.  <23> 

For  though  that  Absolon  be  wood*  or  wroth  *mad 


"go  whistle" 


106 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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107 


Because  that  he  far  was  from  her  sight, 
This  nigh  Nicholas  stood  still  in  his  light. 
Now  bear  thee  well,  thou  Hendy  Nicholas, 
For  Absolon  may  wail  and  sing  "Alas!" 

And  so  befell,  that  on  a  Saturday 

This  carpenter  was  gone  to  Oseney, 

And  Hendy  Nicholas  and  Alison 

Accorded  were  to  this  conclusion. 

That  Nicholas  shall  *shape  him  a  wile* 

The  sillyjealous  husband  to  beguile; 

And  if  so  were  the  game  went  aright. 

She  shoulde  sleepen  in  his  arms  all  night; 

For  this  was  her  desire  and  his  also. 

And  right  anon,  withoute  wordes  mo'. 

This  Nicholas  no  longer  would  he  tarry. 

But  doth  full  soft  unto  his  chamber  carry 

Both  meat  and  drinke  for  a  day  or  tway. 

And  to  her  husband  bade  her  for  to  say. 

If  that  he  asked  after  Nicholas, 

She  shoulde  say,  "She  wist*  not  where  he  was; 

Of  all  the  day  she  saw  him  not  with  eye; 

She  trowed*  he  was  in  some  malady. 

For  no  cry  that  her  maiden  could  him  call 

He  would  answer,  for  nought  that  might  befall. 

Thus  passed  forth  all  thilke*  Saturday, 

That  Nicholas  still  in  his  chamber  lay. 

And  ate,  and  slept,  and  didde  what  him  list 

Till  Sunday,  that*  the  sunne  went  to  rest. 

This  silly  carpenter  *had  great  marvaill* 

Of  Nicholas,  or  what  thing  might  him  ail. 

And  said;  "I  am  adrad*,  by  Saint  Thomas! 

It  standeth  not  aright  with  Nicholas: 

*God  shielde*  that  he  died  suddenly. 


'devise  a  stratagem* 


*knew 


*believed 


*that 


*when 
Vondered  greatly* 

*afraid,  in  dread 

*heaven  forbid!* 


*work 
*servant. 
*call 


*mad 


This  world  is  now  full  fickle  sickerly*.  *certainly 

I  saw  to-day  a  corpse  y-borne  to  chirch. 

That  now  on  Monday  last  I  saw  him  wirch*. 

"Go  up,"  quod  he  unto  his  knave*,  "anon; 

Clepe*  at  his  door,  or  knocke  with  a  stone: 

Look  how  it  is,  and  tell  me  boldely." 

This  knave  went  him  up  full  sturdily. 

And,  at  the  chamber  door  while  that  he  stood. 

He  cried  and  knocked  as  that  he  were  wood:* 

"What  how?  what  do  ye.  Master  Nicholay? 

How  may  ye  sleepen  all  the  longe  day?" 

But  all  for  nought,  he  hearde  not  a  word. 

An  hole  he  found  full  low  upon  the  board. 

Where  as  the  cat  was  wont  in  for  to  creep. 

And  at  that  hole  he  looked  in  full  deep. 

And  at  the  last  he  had  of  him  a  sight. 

This  Nicholas  sat  ever  gaping  upright. 

As  he  had  kyked*  on  the  newe  moon.  *looked  <24> 

Adown  he  went,  and  told  his  master  soon. 

In  what  array  he  saw  this  ilke*  man.  *same 


This  carpenter  to  *blissen  him*  began,  *bless,  cross  himselP 

And  said:  "Now  help  us,  Sainte  Frideswide.<25> 

A  man  wot*  little  what  shall  him  betide. 

This  man  is  fall'n  with  his  astronomy 

Into  some  woodness*  or  some  agony. 

I  thought  aye  well  how  that  it  shoulde  be. 

Men  should  know  nought  of  Godde's  privity 

Yea,  blessed  be  alway  a  lewed*  man. 

That  *nought  but  only  his  believe  can*. 

So  far'd  another  clerk  with  astronomy: 

He  walked  in  the  fieldes  for  to  *pry 

Upon*  the  starres,  what  there  should  befall. 

Till  he  was  in  a  marie  pit  y-fall.<26> 


*knows 

*madness 

*secrets 
*unlearned 
*knows  no  more 
than  his  "credo."* 

*keep  watch  on* 


108 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


He  saw  not  that.  But  yet,  by  Saint  Thomas 

*Me  rueth  sore  oP  Hendy  Nicholas: 

He  shall  be  *rated  oP  his  studying, 

If  that  I  may,  by  Jesus,  heaven's  king! 

Get  me  a  staff,  that  I  may  underspore* 

While  that  thou,  Robin,  heavest  off  the  door: 

He  shall  out  of  his  studying,  as  I  guess." 

And  to  the  chamber  door  he  gan  him  dress* 

His  knave  was  a  strong  carl  for  the  nonce. 

And  by  the  hasp  he  heav'd  it  off  at  once; 

Into  the  floor  the  door  fell  down  anon. 

This  Nicholas  sat  aye  as  still  as  stone. 

And  ever  he  gap'd  upward  into  the  air. 

The  carpenter  ween'd*  he  were  in  despair. 

And  hent*  him  by  the  shoulders  mightily. 

And  shook  him  hard,  and  cried  spitously;* 

"What,  Nicholas?  what  how,  man?  look  adown: 

Awake,  and  think  on  Christe's  passioun. 

I  crouche  thee < 27 >  from  elves,  and  from  wights*. 

Therewith  the  night-spell  said  he  anon  rights*. 

On  the  four  halves*  of  the  house  about. 

And  on  the  threshold  of  the  door  without. 

"Lord  Jesus  Christ,  and  Sainte  Benedight, 

Blesse  this  house  from  every  wicked  wight. 

From  the  night  mare,  the  white  Pater-noster; 

Where  wonnest*  thou  now,  Sainte  Peter's  sister?" 

And  at  the  last  this  Hendy  Nicholas 

Gan  for  to  sigh  full  sore,  and  said;  "Alas! 

Shall  all  time  world  be  lost  eftsoones*  now?" 

This  carpenter  answer'd;  "What  sayest  thou? 

What?  think  on  God,  as  we  do,  men  that  swink.*" 

This  Nicholas  answer'd;  "Fetch  me  a  drink; 

And  after  will  I  speak  in  privity 

Of  certain  thing  that  toucheth  thee  and  me: 


1  am  very  sorry  for* 
*chidden  for* 


*lever 


up 


*apply  himself 


*thought 
*caught 
*angrily 


*witches 
*properly 
*corners 


*dwellest 


*forthwith 


*labou 


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I  will  tell  it  no  other  man  certain." 


109 


This  carpenter  went  down,  and  came  again. 
And  brought  of  mighty  ale  a  large  quart; 
And  when  that  each  of  them  had  drunk  his  part. 
This  Nicholas  his  chamber  door  fast  shet*. 
And  down  the  carpenter  by  him  he  set. 
And  saide;  "John,  mine  host  full  lieP  and  dear. 
Thou  shalt  upon  thy  truthe  swear  me  here. 
That  to  no  wight  thou  shalt  my  counsel  wray*: 
For  it  is  Christes  counsel  that  I  say. 
And  if  thou  tell  it  man,  thou  art  forlore:* 
For  this  vengeance  thou  shalt  have  therefor. 
That  if  thou  wraye*  me,  thou  shalt  be  wood**." 
"Nay  Christ  forbid  it  for  his  holy  blood!" 
Quoth  then  this  silly  man;  "I  am  no  blab,* 
Nor,  though  I  say  it,  am  I  *lief  to  gab*.  '' 

Say  what  thou  wilt,  I  shall  it  never  tell 
To  child  or  wife,  by  him  that  harried  Hell." 


*shut 


*loved 


*betray 

*lost<28> 

*betray  **mad 

*talker 
fond  of  speech* 

<29> 


"Now,  John,"  quoth  Nicholas,  "I  will  not  lie, 

I  have  y- found  in  my  astrology. 

As  I  have  looked  in  the  moone  bright. 

That  now  on  Monday  next,  at  quarter  night. 

Shall  fall  a  rain,  and  that  so  wild  and  wood*. 

That  never  half  so  great  was  Noe's  flood. 

This  world,"  he  said,  "in  less  than  half  an  hour 

Shall  all  be  dreint*,  so  hideous  is  the  shower: 

Thus  shall  mankinde  drench*,  and  lose  their  life." 

This  carpenter  answer'd;  "Alas,  my  wife! 

And  shall  she  drench?  alas,  mine  Alisoun!" 

For  sorrow  of  this  he  fell  almost  adown. 

And  said;  "Is  there  no  remedy  in  this  case?" 

"Why,  yes,  for  God,"  quoth  Hendy  Nicholas; 


*mad 


*drowned 
*drown 


no 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"If  thou  wilt  worken  after  *lore  and  rede*;        *learning  and  advice* 

Thou  may'st  not  worken  after  thine  own  head. 

For  thus  saith  Solomon,  that  was  full  true: 

Work  all  by  counsel,  and  thou  shalt  not  rue*.  *repent 

And  if  thou  worke  wilt  by  good  counseil, 

I  undertake,  withoute  mast  or  sail. 

Yet  shall  I  save  her,  and  thee,  and  me. 

Hast  thou  not  heard  how  saved  was  Noe, 

When  that  our  Lord  had  warned  him  beforn. 

That  all  the  world  with  water  *should  be  lorn*?"         *should  perish* 

"Yes,"  quoth  this  carpenter,"  *full  yore  ago*."  *long  since* 

"Hast  thou  not  heard,"  quoth  Nicholas,  "also 

The  sorrow  of  Noe,  with  his  fellowship. 

That  he  had  ere  he  got  his  wife  to  ship? <  30 > 

*Him  had  been  lever,  I  dare  well  undertake. 

At  thilke  time,  than  all  his  wethers  black. 

That  she  had  had  a  ship  herself  alone.*  *see  note  <31> 

And  therefore  know'st  thou  what  is  best  to  be  done? 

This  asketh  haste,  and  of  an  hasty  thing 

Men  may  not  preach  or  make  tarrying. 

Anon  go  get  us  fast  into  this  inn*  *house 

A  kneading  trough,  or  else  a  kemelin*,  *brewing-tub 

For  each  of  us;  but  look  that  they  be  large. 

In  whiche  we  may  swim*  as  in  a  barge:  *float 

And  have  therein  vitaille  suffisant 

But  for  one  day;  fie  on  the  remenant; 

The  water  shall  aslake*  and  go  away  *slacken,  abate 

Aboute  prime*  upon  the  nexte  day.  *early  morning 

But  Robin  may  not  know  of  this,  thy  knave*,  *servant 

Nor  eke  thy  maiden  Gill  I  may  not  save: 

Ask  me  not  why:  for  though  thou  aske  me 

I  will  not  telle  Godde's  privity. 

Sufficeth  thee,  *but  if  thy  wit  be  mad*,  *unless  thou  be 

To  have  as  great  a  grace  as  Noe  had;  out  of  thy  wits* 


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Thy  wife  shall  I  well  saven  out  of  doubt. 

Go  now  thy  way,  and  speed  thee  hereabout. 

But  when  thou  hast  for  her,  and  thee,  and  me, 

Y-gotten  us  these  kneading  tubbes  three. 

Then  shalt  thou  hang  them  in  the  roof  full  high. 

So  that  no  man  our  purveyance*  espy:  *foresight,  providence 

And  when  thou  hast  done  thus  as  I  have  said. 

And  hast  our  vitaille  fair  in  them  y-laid. 

And  eke  an  axe  to  smite  the  cord  in  two 

When  that  the  water  comes,  that  we  may  go. 

And  break  an  hole  on  high  upon  the  gable 

Into  the  garden-ward,  over  the  stable. 

That  we  may  freely  passe  forth  our  way. 

When  that  the  greate  shower  is  gone  away. 

Then  shalt  thou  swim  as  merry,  I  undertake. 

As  doth  the  white  duck  after  her  drake: 

Then  will  I  clepe,*  'How,  Alison?  How,  John?  *call 

Be  merry:  for  the  flood  will  pass  anon.' 

And  thou  wilt  say,  'Hail,  Master  Nicholay, 

Good-morrow,  I  see  thee  well,  for  it  is  day' 

And  then  shall  we  be  lordes  all  our  life 

Of  all  the  world,  as  Noe  and  his  wife. 

But  of  one  thing  I  warne  thee  full  right. 

Be  well  advised,  on  that  ilke*  night,  *same 

When  we  be  enter 'd  into  shippe's  board. 

That  none  of  us  not  speak  a  single  word. 

Nor  clepe  nor  cry,  but  be  in  his  prayere. 

For  that  is  Godde's  owen  heste*  dear.  *command 

Thy  wife  and  thou  must  hangen  far  atween*,  *asunder 

For  that  betwixte  you  shall  be  no  sin. 

No  more  in  looking  than  there  shall  in  deed. 

This  ordinance  is  said:  go,  God  thee  speed 

To-morrow  night,  when  men  be  all  asleep. 

Into  our  kneading  tubbes  will  we  creep. 


111 


112 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  sitte  there,  abiding  Godde's  grace. 

Go  now  thy  way,  I  have  no  longer  space 

To  make  of  this  no  longer  sermoning: 

Men  say  thus:  Send  the  wise,  and  say  nothing: 

Thou  art  so  wise,  it  needeth  thee  nought  teach. 

Go,  save  our  lives,  and  that  I  thee  beseech." 


strange  contrivance 
meant* 


This  silly  carpenter  went  forth  his  way. 

Full  oft  he  said,  "Alas!  and  Well-a-day!,' 

And  to  his  wife  he  told  his  privity. 

And  she  was  ware,  and  better  knew  than  he 

What  all  this  *quainte  cast  was  for  to  say*. 

But  natheless  she  fear'd  as  she  would  dey. 

And  said:  "Alas!  go  forth  thy  way  anon. 

Help  us  to  scape,  or  we  be  dead  each  one. 

I  am  thy  true  and  very  wedded  wife; 

Go,  deare  spouse,  and  help  to  save  our  life." 

Lo,  what  a  great  thing  is  affection! 

Men  may  die  of  imagination. 

So  deeply  may  impression  be  take. 

This  silly  carpenter  begins  to  quake: 

He  thinketh  verily  that  he  may  see 

This  newe  flood  come  weltering  as  the  sea 

To  drenchen*  Alison,  his  honey  dear. 

He  weepeth,  waileth,  maketh  *sorry  cheer*; 

He  sigheth,  with  full  many  a  sorry  sough.* 

He  go'th,  and  getteth  him  a  kneading  trough. 

And  after  that  a  tub,  and  a  kemelin. 

And  privily  he  sent  them  to  his  inn: 

And  hung  them  in  the  roof  full  privily. 

With  his  own  hand  then  made  he  ladders  three. 

To  climb e  by  *the  ranges  and  the  stalks*    *the  rungs  and  the  uprights' 

Unto  the  tubbes  hanging  in  the  balks*;  *beams 

And  victualed  them,  kemelin,  trough,  and  tub. 


*drown 
dismal  countenance* 
*groan 


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113 


With  bread  and  cheese,  and  good  ale  in  a  jub*,  *jug 

Sufficing  right  enough  as  for  a  day. 

But  ere  that  he  had  made  all  this  array. 

He  sent  his  knave*,  and  eke  his  wench**  also,  *servant  **maid 

Upon  his  need*  to  London  for  to  go.  *business 

And  on  the  Monday,  when  it  drew  to  night. 

He  shut  his  door  withoute  candle  light. 

And  dressed*  every  thing  as  it  should  be.  *prepared 

And  shortly  up  they  climbed  all  the  three. 

They  satte  stille  well  *a  furlong  way*.  *the  time  it  would  take 

"Now,  Pater  noster,  clum,"<32>  said  Nicholay,  to  walk  a  furlong* 

And  "clum,"  quoth  John;  and  "clum,"  said  Alison: 

This  carpenter  said  his  devotion. 

And  still  he  sat  and  bidded  his  prayere. 

Awaking  on  the  rain,  if  he  it  hear. 

The  deade  sleep,  for  weary  business. 

Fell  on  this  carpenter,  right  as  I  guess. 

About  the  curfew-time,<33>  or  little  more. 

For  *travail  of  his  ghost*  he  groaned  sore,  *anguish  of  spirit* 

*And  eft  he  routed,  for  his  head  mislay*  *and  then  he  snored, 

Adown  the  ladder  stalked  Nicholay;  for  his  head  lay  awry* 

And  Alison  full  soft  adown  she  sped. 

Withoute  wordes  more  they  went  to  bed, 

*There  as*  the  carpenter  was  wont  to  lie:  *where* 

There  was  the  revel,  and  the  melody. 

And  thus  lay  Alison  and  Nicholas, 

In  business  of  mirth  and  in  solace. 

Until  the  bell  of  laudes*  gan  to  ring,        *morning  service,  at  3. a.m. 

And  friars  in  the  chancel  went  to  sing. 


This  parish  clerk,  this  amorous  Absolon, 
That  is  for  love  alway  so  woebegone. 
Upon  the  Monday  was  at  Oseney 
With  company,  him  to  disport  and  play; 


114 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  asked  upon  cas*  a  cloisterer**  *occasion  **monk 

Full  privily  after  John  the  carpenter; 

And  he  drew  him  apart  out  of  the  church, 

And  said,  "I  n'ot;*  I  saw  him  not  here  wirch**  *know  not  **work 

Since  Saturday;  I  trow  that  he  be  went 

For  timber,  where  our  abbot  hath  him  sent. 

And  dwellen  at  the  Grange  a  day  or  two: 

For  he  is  wont  for  timber  for  to  go. 

Or  else  he  is  at  his  own  house  certain. 

Where  that  he  be,  I  cannot  *soothly  sayn.*"  *say  certainly* 

This  Absolon  full  jolly  was  and  light. 

And  thought,  "Now  is  the  time  to  wake  all  night. 

For  sickerly*  I  saw  him  not  stirring  *certainly 

About  his  door,  since  day  began  to  spring. 

So  may  I  thrive,  but  I  shall  at  cock  crow 

Full  privily  go  knock  at  his  window. 

That  stands  full  low  upon  his  bower*  wall:  *chamber 

To  Alison  then  will  I  tellen  all 

My  love-longing;  for  I  shall  not  miss 

That  at  the  leaste  way  I  shall  her  kiss. 

Some  manner  comfort  shall  I  have,  parfay*,  *by  my  faith 

My  mouth  hath  itched  all  this  livelong  day: 

That  is  a  sign  of  kissing  at  the  least. 

All  night  I  mette*  eke  I  was  at  a  feast.  *dreamt 

Therefore  I  will  go  sleep  an  hour  or  tway. 

And  all  the  night  then  will  I  wake  and  play." 

When  that  the  first  cock  crowed  had,  anon 

Up  rose  this  jolly  lover  Absolon, 

And  him  arrayed  gay,  *at  point  devise.*  *with  exact  care* 

But  first  he  chewed  grains<34>  and  liquorice. 

To  smelle  sweet,  ere  he  had  combed  his  hair. 

Under  his  tongue  a  true  love  <35>  he  bare. 

For  thereby  thought  he  to  be  gracious. 


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115 


Then  came  he  to  the  carpentere's  house. 

And  still  he  stood  under  the  shot  window; 

Unto  his  breast  it  raught*,  it  was  so  low; 

And  soft  he  coughed  with  a  semisoun'.* 

"What  do  ye,  honeycomb,  sweet  Alisoun? 

My  faire  bird,  my  sweet  cinamome*. 

Awaken,  leman*  mine,  and  speak  to  me. 

Full  little  thinke  ye  upon  my  woe. 

That  for  your  love  I  sweat  *there  as*  I  go. 

No  wonder  is  that  I  do  swelt*  and  sweat. 

I  mourn  as  doth  a  lamb  after  the  teat 

Y-wis*,  leman,  I  have  such  love-longing. 

That  like  a  turtle*  true  is  my  mourning. 

I  may  not  eat,  no  more  than  a  maid." 

"Go  from  the  window,  thou  jack  fool,"  she  said: 

"As  help  me  God,  it  will  not  be,  'come  ba*  me.' 

I  love  another,  else  I  were  to  blame". 

Well  better  than  thee,  by  Jesus,  Absolon. 

Go  forth  thy  way,  or  I  will  cast  a  stone; 

And  let  me  sleep;  *a  twenty  devil  way*. 

"Alas!"  quoth  Absolon,  "and  well  away! 

That  true  love  ever  was  so  ill  beset: 

Then  kiss  me,  since  that  it  may  be  no  bet*. 

For  Jesus'  love,  and  for  the  love  of  me." 

"Wilt  thou  then  go  thy  way  therewith?"  ,  quoth  she. 

"Yea,  certes,  leman,"  quoth  this  Absolon. 

"Then  make  thee  ready,"  quoth  she,  "I  come  anon." 

[And  unto  Nicholas  she  said  *full  still*:  *in  a  low  voice* 

"Now  peace,  and  thou  shalt  laugh  anon  thy  fill."]  <  36  > 

This  Absolon  down  set  him  on  his  knees. 

And  said;  "I  am  a  lord  at  all  degrees: 

For  after  this  I  hope  there  cometh  more; 

Leman,  thy  grace,  and,  sweete  bird,  thine  ore.*"  *favour 

The  window  she  undid,  and  that  in  haste. 


*reached 
*low  tone 

cinnamon,  sweet  spice 
*mistress 

*wherever 
*faint 

*certainly 
*turtle-dove 


*kiss 


*twenty  devils  take  ye!* 


*better 


116 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"Have  done,"  quoth  she,  "come  off,  and  speed  thee  fast. 

Lest  that  our  neighebours  should  thee  espy." 

Then  Absolon  gan  wipe  his  mouth  full  dry. 

Dark  was  the  night  as  pitch  or  as  the  coal. 

And  at  the  window  she  put  out  her  hole. 

And  Absolon  him  fell  ne  bet  ne  werse. 

But  with  his  mouth  he  kiss'd  her  naked  erse 

Full  savourly.  When  he  was  ware  of  this. 

Aback  he  start,  and  thought  it  was  amiss; 

For  well  he  wist  a  woman  hath  no  beard. 

He  felt  a  thing  all  rough,  and  long  y-hair'd. 

And  saide;  "Fy,  alas!  what  have  I  do?" 

"Te  he!"  quoth  she,  and  clapt  the  window  to; 

And  Absolon  went  forth  at  sorry  pace. 

"A  beard,  a  beard,"  said  Hendy  Nicholas; 

"By  God's  corpus,  this  game  went  fair  and  well." 

This  silly  Absolon  heard  every  deal*,  *word 

And  on  his  lip  he  gan  for  anger  bite; 

And  to  himself  he  said,  "I  shall  thee  quite*.     *requite,  be  even  with 

Who  rubbeth  now,  who  frotteth*  now  his  lips  *rubs 

With  dust,  with  sand,  with  straw,  with  cloth,  with  chips. 

But  Absolon?  that  saith  full  oft,  "Alas! 

My  soul  betake  I  unto  Sathanas, 

But  me  were  lever*  than  all  this  town,"  quoth  he  *rather 

I  this  despite  awroken*  for  to  be.  *revenged 

Alas!  alas!  that  I  have  been  y-blent*."  *deceived 

His  bote  love  is  cold,  and  all  y-quent.*  *quenched 

For  from  that  time  that  he  had  kiss'd  her  erse. 

Of  paramours  he  *sette  not  a  kers,*  *cared  not  a  rush* 

For  he  was  healed  of  his  malady; 

Full  often  paramours  he  gan  defy. 

And  weep  as  doth  a  child  that  hath  been  beat. 

A  softe  pace  he  went  over  the  street 

Unto  a  smith,  men  callen  Dan*  Gerveis,  *master 


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That  in  his  forge  smithed  plough-harness; 

He  sharped  share  and  culter  busily. 

This  Absolon  knocked  all  easily. 

And  said;  "Undo,  Gerveis,  and  that  anon." 

"What,  who  art  thou?"  "It  is  I,  Absolon." 

"What?  Absolon,  what?  Christe's  sweete  tree*. 

Why  rise  so  rath*?  hey!  Benedicite, 

What  aileth  you?  some  gay  girl, < 37 >  God  it  wote. 

Hath  brought  you  thus  upon  the  viretote:< 38  > 

By  Saint  Neot,  ye  wot  well  what  I  mean." 

This  Absolon  he  raughte*  not  a  bean 

Of  all  his  play;  no  word  again  he  gaP, 

For  he  had  more  tow  on  his  distaff<39> 

Than  Gerveis  knew,  and  saide;  "Friend  so  dear. 

That  bote  culter  in  the  chimney  here 

Lend  it  to  me,  I  have  therewith  to  don*: 

I  will  it  bring  again  to  thee  full  soon." 

Gerveis  answered;  "Certes,  were  it  gold. 

Or  in  a  poke*  nobles  all  untold. 

Thou  shouldst  it  have,  as  I  am  a  true  smith. 

Hey!  Christe's  foot,  what  will  ye  do  therewith?" 

"Thereof,"  quoth  Absolon,  "be  as  be  may; 

I  shall  well  tell  it  thee  another  day:" 

And  caught  the  culter  by  the  colde  stele*. 

Full  soft  out  at  the  door  he  gan  to  steal. 

And  went  unto  the  carpentere's  wall 

He  coughed  first,  and  knocked  therewithal 

Upon  the  window,  light  as  he  did  ere*. 

This  Alison  answered;  "Who  is  there 

That  knocketh  so?  I  warrant  him  a  thief." 

"Nay,  nay,"  quoth  he,  "God  wot,  my  sweete  lefe*, 

I  am  thine  Absolon,  my  own  darling. 

Of  gold,"  quoth  he,  "I  have  thee  brought  a  ring. 

My  mother  gave  it  me,  so  God  me  save! 


117 


*early 


*recked,  cared 
*spoke 


*do 


purse 


*handle 


*before  <40> 


*love 


118 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Full  fine  it  is,  and  thereto  well  y-grave*: 

This  will  I  give  to  thee,  if  thou  me  kiss." 

Now  Nicholas  was  risen  up  to  piss. 

And  thought  he  would  *amenden  all  the  jape*; 

He  shoulde  kiss  his  erse  ere  that  he  scape: 

And  up  the  window  did  he  hastily. 

And  out  his  erse  he  put  full  privily 

Over  the  buttock,  to  the  haunche  bone. 

And  therewith  spake  this  clerk,  this  Absolon, 

"Speak,  sweete  bird,  I  know  not  where  thou  art." 

This  Nicholas  anon  let  fly  a  fart. 

As  great  as  it  had  been  a  thunder  dent*; 

That  with  the  stroke  he  was  well  nigh  y-blent*; 

But  he  was  ready  with  his  iron  hot. 

And  Nicholas  amid  the  erse  he  smote. 

Off  went  the  skin  an  handbreadth  all  about. 

The  bote  culter  burned  so  his  tout*. 

That  for  the  smart  he  weened*  he  would  die; 

As  he  were  wood*,  for  woe  he  gan  to  cry, 

"Help!  water,  water,  help  for  Godde's  heart!" 


*engraved 
*improve  the  joke* 


*peal,  clap 
*blinded 


*breech 

*thought 
*mad 


This  carpenter  out  of  his  slumber  start. 

And  heard  one  cry  "Water,"  as  he  were  wood*. 

And  thought, "Alas!  now  cometh  Noes  flood." 

He  sat  him  up  withoute  wordes  mo' 

And  with  his  axe  he  smote  the  cord  in  two; 

And  down  went  all;  he  found  neither  to  sell 

Nor  bread  nor  ale,  till  he  came  to  the  sell*. 

Upon  the  floor,  and  there  in  swoon  he  lay. 

Up  started  Alison  and  Nicholay, 

And  cried  out  an  "harow!"  <15>  in  the  street. 

The  neighbours  alle,  bothe  small  and  great 

In  ranne,  for  to  gauren*  on  this  man. 

That  yet  in  swoone  lay,  both  pale  and  wan: 


*mad 


*threshold  <41> 


"stare 


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119 


For  with  the  fall  he  broken  had  his  arm. 

But  stand  he  must  unto  his  owen  harm. 

For  when  he  spake,  he  was  anon  borne  down 

With  Hendy  Nicholas  and  Alisoun. 

They  told  to  every  man  that  he  was  wood*; 

He  was  aghaste*  so  of  Noes  flood. 

Through  phantasy,  that  of  his  vanity 

He  had  y-bought  him  kneading-tubbes  three. 

And  had  them  hanged  in  the  roof  above; 

And  that  he  prayed  them  for  Godde's  love 

To  sitten  in  the  roof  for  company. 

The  folk  gan  laughen  at  his  phantasy. 

Into  the  roof  they  kyken*  and  they  gape. 

And  turned  all  his  harm  into  a  jape*. 

For  whatsoe'er  this  carpenter  answer 'd. 

It  was  for  nought,  no  man  his  reason  heard. 

With  oathes  great  he  was  so  sworn  adown. 

That  he  was  holden  wood  in  all  the  town. 

For  every  clerk  anon  right  held  with  other; 

They  said,  "The  man  was  wood,  my  leve*  brother;" 

And  every  wight  gan  laughen  at  his  strife. 

Thus  swived*  was  the  carpentere's  wife. 

For  all  his  keeping*  and  his  jealousy; 

And  Absolon  hath  kiss'd  her  nether  eye; 

And  Nicholas  is  scalded  in  the  tout. 

This  tale  is  done,  and  God  save  all  the  rout*. 


*mad 


*afraid 


*peep,  look. 
*jest 


*dear 


*enjoyed 
*care 


company 


120 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


me  &iew^'^  I:yale. 


The  Prologue. 


WHEN  folk  had  laughed  all  at  this  nice  case 

Of  Absolon  and  Hendy  Nicholas, 

Diverse  folk  diversely  they  said, 

But  for  the  more  part  they  laugh'd  and  play'd;* 

And  at  this  tale  I  saw  no  man  him  grieve. 

But  it  were  only  Osewold  the  Reeve. 

Because  he  was  of  carpenteres  craft, 

A  little  ire  is  in  his  hearte  laft*; 

He  gan  to  grudge*  and  blamed  it  a  lite.** 

"So  the*  I,"  quoth  he,  "full  well  could  I  him  quite'' 

With  blearing*  of  a  proude  miller's  eye. 

If  that  me  list  to  speak  of  ribaldry. 

But  I  am  old;  me  list  not  play  for  age;  <2> 

Grass  time  is  done,  my  fodder  is  now  forage. 

This  white  top*  writeth  mine  olde  years; 

Mine  heart  is  also  moulded*  as  mine  hairs; 

And  I  do  fare  as  doth  an  open-erse*; 

That  ilke*  fruit  is  ever  longer  werse. 

Till  it  be  rotten  *in  mullok  or  in  stre*. 

We  olde  men,  I  dread,  so  fare  we; 

Till  we  be  rotten,  can  we  not  be  ripe; 

We  hop*  away,  while  that  the  world  will  pipe; 

For  in  our  will  there  sticketh  aye  a  nail. 


*were  diverted 


*left 

murmur  **little. 

*    *thrive  **match 

*dimming  <  1  > 


*head 
*grown  mouldy 
*medlar  <3> 
*same 
*on  the  ground  or  in  straw* 


*dance 


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121 


To  have  an  hoary  head  and  a  green  tail. 

As  hath  a  leek;  for  though  our  might  be  gone. 

Our  will  desireth  folly  ever-in-one*: 

For  when  we  may  not  do,  then  will  we  speak. 

Yet  in  our  ashes  cold  does  fire  reek.* 

Four  gledes*  have  we,  which  I  shall  devise**. 

Vaunting,  and  lying,  anger,  covetise*. 

These  foure  sparks  belongen  unto  eld. 

Our  olde  limbes  well  may  be  unweld*. 

But  will  shall  never  fail  us,  that  is  sooth. 

And  yet  have  I  alway  a  coltes  tooth,<5> 

As  many  a  year  as  it  is  passed  and  gone 

Since  that  my  tap  of  life  began  to  run; 

For  sickerly*,  when  I  was  born,  anon 

Death  drew  the  tap  of  life,  and  let  it  gon: 

And  ever  since  hath  so  the  tap  y-run. 

Till  that  almost  all  empty  is  the  tun. 

The  stream  of  life  now  droppeth  on  the  chimb.  <  6 

The  silly  tongue  well  may  ring  and  chime 

Of  wretchedness,  that  passed  is  full  yore*: 

With  olde  folk,  save  dotage,  is  no  more.  <7> 


*continually 

*smoke<4> 
coals  **  describe 
*covetousness 

*unwieldy 


*certainly 


*long 


When  that  our  Host  had  heard  this  sermoning. 

He  gan  to  speak  as  lordly  as  a  king. 

And  said;  "To  what  amounteth  all  this  wit? 

What?  shall  we  speak  all  day  of  holy  writ? 

The  devil  made  a  Reeve  for  to  preach. 

As  of  a  souter*  a  shipman,  or  a  leach**. 

Say  forth  thy  tale,  and  tarry  not  the  time: 

Lo  here  is  Deptford,  and  'tis  half  past  prime:<10> 

Lo  Greenwich,  where  many  a  shrew  is  in. 

It  were  high  time  thy  tale  to  begin." 


*cobbler  <8> 
**surgeon  <9> 


"Now,  sirs,"  quoth  then  this  Osewold  the  Reeve, 


122 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


I  pray  you  all  that  none  of  you  do  grieve, 

Though  I  answer,  and  somewhat  set  his  hove*,  *hood  <  1 1  > 

For  lawful  is  *force  off  with  force  to  shove.*  *to  repel  force 

This  drunken  miller  hath  y-told  us  here  by  force* 

How  that  beguiled  was  a  carpentere, 

Paraventure*  in  scorn,  for  I  am  one:  *perhaps 

And,  by  your  leave,  I  shall  him  quite  anon. 

Right  in  his  churlish  termes  will  I  speak, 

I  pray  to  God  his  necke  might  to-break. 

He  can  well  in  mine  eye  see  a  stalk. 

But  in  his  own  he  cannot  see  a  balk."<  12 > 


The  Tale. 


At  Trompington,  not  far  from  Cantebrig,*  *Cambridge 

There  goes  a  brook,  and  over  that  a  brig. 

Upon  the  whiche  brook  there  stands  a  mill: 

And  this  is  *very  sooth*  that  I  you  tell. 

A  miller  was  there  dwelling  many  a  day. 

As  any  peacock  he  was  proud  and  gay: 

Pipen  he  could,  and  fish,  and  nettes  bete*. 

And  turne  cups,  and  wrestle  well,  and  shete*, 

Aye  by  his  belt  he  bare  a  long  pavade*. 

And  of  his  sword  full  trenchant  was  the  blade. 

A  jolly  popper*  bare  he  in  his  pouch;  *dagger 

There  was  no  man  for  peril  durst  him  touch. 

A  Sheffield  whittle*  bare  he  in  his  hose.  *small  knife 

Round  was  his  face,  and  camuse*  was  his  nose.  *flat  <2> 

As  pilled*  as  an  ape's  was  his  skull.  *peeled,  bald. 

He  was  a  market-beter*  at  the  full.  *brawler 

There  durste  no  wight  hand  upon  him  legge*,  *lay 

That  he  ne  swore  anon  he  should  abegge*.  *suffer  the  penalty 


*complete  truth* 


prepare 
*shoot 
*poniard 


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123 


A  thief  he  was,  for  sooth,  of  corn  and  meal. 

And  that  a  sly,  and  used  well  to  steal. 

His  name  was  *hoten  deinous  Simekin*        *called  "Disdainful  Simkin" 

A  wife  he  hadde,  come  of  noble  kin: 

The  parson  of  the  town  her  father  was. 

With  her  he  gave  full  many  a  pan  of  brass. 

For  that  Simkin  should  in  his  blood  ally. 

She  was  y-foster'd  in  a  nunnery: 

For  Simkin  woulde  no  wife,  as  he  said. 

But  she  were  well  y-nourish'd,  and  a  maid. 

To  saven  his  estate  and  yeomanry: 

And  she  was  proud,  and  pert  as  is  a  pie*.  *magpie 

A  full  fair  sight  it  was  to  see  them  two; 

On  holy  days  before  her  would  he  go 

With  his  tippet*  y-bound  about  his  head;  *hood 

And  she  came  after  in  a  gite*  of  red,  *gown  <3> 

And  Simkin  hadde  hosen  of  the  same. 

There  durste  no  wight  call  her  aught  but  Dame: 

None  was  so  hardy,  walking  by  that  way. 

That  with  her  either  durste  *rage  or  play*,  *use  freedom* 

*But  iP  he  would  be  slain  by  Simekin  *unless 

With  pavade,  or  with  knife,  or  bodekin. 

For  jealous  folk  be  per'lous  evermo': 

Algate*  they  would  their  wives  *wende  so*.  *unless  *so  behave* 

And  eke  for  she  was  somewhat  smutterlich*,  *dirty 

She  was  as  dign*  as  water  in  a  ditch,  *nasty 

And  all  so  full  of  hoker*,  and  bismare**.    *ill-nature  **abusive  speech 

Her  thoughte  that  a  lady  should  her  spare*,        *not  judge  her  hardly 

What  for  her  kindred,  and  her  nortelrie*  *nurturing,  education 

That  she  had  learned  in  the  nunnery. 

One  daughter  hadde  they  betwixt  them  two 
Of  twenty  year,  withouten  any  mo. 
Saving  a  child  that  was  of  half  year  age. 


124 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


In  cradle  it  lay,  and  was  a  proper  page.*  *boy 

This  wenche  thick  and  well  y-growen  was, 

With  camuse*  nose,  and  eyen  gray  as  glass;  *flat 

With  buttocks  broad,  and  breastes  round  and  high; 

But  right  fair  was  her  hair,  I  will  not  lie. 

The  parson  of  the  town,  for  she  was  fair. 

In  purpose  was  to  make  of  her  his  heir 

Both  of  his  chattels  and  his  messuage. 

And  *strange  he  made  it*  of  her  marriage.  *he  made  it  a  matter 

His  purpose  was  for  to  bestow  her  high  of  difficulty* 

Into  some  worthy  blood  of  ancestry. 

For  holy  Church's  good  may  be  dispended*  *spent 

On  holy  Church's  blood  that  is  descended. 

Therefore  he  would  his  holy  blood  honour 

Though  that  he  holy  Churche  should  devour. 

Great  soken*  hath  this  miller,  out  of  doubt,     *toll  taken  for  grinding 

With  wheat  and  malt,  of  all  the  land  about; 

And  namely*  there  was  a  great  college  *especially 

Men  call  the  Soler  Hall  at  Cantebrege,<4> 

There  was  their  wheat  and  eke  their  malt  y-ground. 

And  on  a  day  it  happed  in  a  stound*,  *suddenly 

Sick  lay  the  manciple*  of  a  malady,  *steward  <  5  > 

Men  *weened  wisly*  that  he  shoulde  die.  *thought  certainly* 

For  which  this  miller  stole  both  meal  and  corn 

An  hundred  times  more  than  beforn. 

For  theretofore  he  stole  but  courteously. 

But  now  he  was  a  thief  outrageously. 

For  which  the  warden  chid  and  made  fare*,  *fuss 

But  thereof  *set  the  miller  not  a  tare*;  *he  cared  not  a  rush* 

He  *crack'd  his  boast,*  and  swore  it  was  not  so.  *talked  big* 


Then  were  there  younge  poore  scholars  two. 
That  dwelled  in  the  hall  of  which  I  say; 


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TestiP  they  were,  and  lusty  for  to  play;  *headstrong  <6> 

And  only  for  their  mirth  and  revelry 

Upon  the  warden  busily  they  cry. 

To  give  them  leave  for  but  a  *little  stound*,  *short  time* 

To  go  to  mill,  and  see  their  corn  y-ground: 

And  hardily*  they  durste  lay  their  neck,  *boldly 

The  miller  should  not  steal  them  half  a  peck 

Of  corn  by  sleight,  nor  them  by  force  bereave*  *take  away 

And  at  the  last  the  warden  give  them  leave: 

John  hight  the  one,  and  Alein  hight  the  other. 

Of  one  town  were  they  born,  that  highte  Strother,<7> 

Far  in  the  North,  I  cannot  tell  you  where. 

This  Alein  he  made  ready  all  his  gear. 

And  on  a  horse  the  sack  he  cast  anon: 

Forth  went  Alein  the  clerk,  and  also  John, 

With  good  sword  and  with  buckler  by  their  side. 

John  knew  the  way,  him  needed  not  no  guide. 

And  at  the  mill  the  sack  adown  he  lay'th. 


125 


Alein  spake  first;  "All  hail,  Simon,  in  faith. 

How  fares  thy  faire  daughter,  and  thy  wife." 

"Alein,  welcome,"  quoth  Simkin,  "by  my  life. 

And  John  also:  how  now,  what  do  ye  here?" 

"By  God,  Simon,"  quoth  John,  "need  has  no  peer*.  *equal 

Him  serve  himself  behoves  that  has  no  swain*,  *servant 

Or  else  he  is  a  fool,  as  clerkes  sayn. 

Our  manciple  I  hope*  he  will  be  dead,  *expect 

So  workes  aye  the  wanges*  in  his  head:  *cheek-teeth  <8> 

And  therefore  is  I  come,  and  eke  Alein, 

To  grind  our  corn  and  carry  it  home  again: 

I  pray  you  speed  us  hence  as  well  ye  may." 

"It  shall  be  done,"  quoth  Simkin,  "by  my  fay. 

What  will  ye  do  while  that  it  is  in  hand?" 

"By  God,  right  by  the  hopper  will  I  stand," 


126 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Quoth  John,  "and  see  how  that  the  corn  goes  in. 
Yet  saw  I  never,  by  my  father's  kin. 
How  that  the  hopper  wagges  to  and  fro." 
Alein  answered,  "John,  and  wilt  thou  so? 
Then  will  I  be  beneathe,  by  my  crown. 
And  see  how  that  the  meale  falls  adown 
Into  the  trough,  that  shall  be  my  disport*: 
For,  John,  in  faith  I  may  be  of  your  sort; 
I  is  as  ill  a  miller  as  is  ye." 


amusement 


*simplicity 


*think 


This  miller  smiled  at  their  nicety*. 

And  thought,  "All  this  is  done  but  for  a  wile. 

They  weenen*  that  no  man  may  them  beguile. 

But  by  my  thrift  yet  shall  I  blear  their  eye,<9> 

For  all  the  sleight  in  their  philosophy. 

The  more  *quainte  knackes*  that  they  make,  *odd  little  tricks* 

The  more  will  I  steal  when  that  I  take. 

Instead  of  flour  yet  will  I  give  them  bren*.  *bran 

The  greatest  clerks  are  not  the  wisest  men. 

As  whilom  to  the  wolf  thus  spake  the  mare:  <10> 

Of  all  their  art  ne  count  I  not  a  tare." 

Out  at  the  door  he  went  full  privily. 

When  that  he  saw  his  time,  softely. 

He  looked  up  and  down,  until  he  found 

The  clerkes'  horse,  there  as  he  stood  y-bound 

Behind  the  mill,  under  a  levesell:*  *arbour<  1 1  > 

And  to  the  horse  he  went  him  fair  and  well. 

And  stripped  off  the  bridle  right  anon. 

And  when  the  horse  was  loose,  he  gan  to  gon 

Toward  the  fen,  where  wilde  mares  run. 

Forth,  with  "Wehee!"  through  thick  and  eke  through  thin. 

This  miller  went  again,  no  word  he  said. 

But  did  his  note*,  and  with  these  clerkes  play'd,         *business  <  12> 

Till  that  their  corn  was  fair  and  well  y-ground. 


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And  when  the  meal  was  sacked  and  y-bound. 
Then  John  went  out,  and  found  his  horse  away. 
And  gan  to  cry,  "Harow,  and  well-away! 
Our  horse  is  lost:  Alein,  for  Godde's  bones. 
Step  on  thy  feet;  come  off,  man,  all  at  once: 
Alas!  our  warden  has  his  palfrey  lorn.*" 
This  Alein  all  forgot,  both  meal  and  corn; 
All  was  out  of  his  mind  his  husbandry*. 
"What,  which  way  is  he  gone?"  he  gan  to  cry. 
The  wife  came  leaping  inward  at  a  renne*. 
She  said;  "Alas!  your  horse  went  to  the  fen 
With  wilde  mares,  as  fast  as  he  could  go. 
Unthank*  come  on  his  hand  that  bound  him  so 
And  his  that  better  should  have  knit  the  rein." 
"Alas!"  quoth  John,  "Alein,  for  Christes  pain 
Lay  down  thy  sword,  and  I  shall  mine  also. 
I  is  full  wight*,  God  wate**,  as  is  a  roe. 
By  Godde's  soul  he  shall  not  scape  us  bathe*. 
Why  n'  had  thou  put  the  capel*  in  the  lathe**? 
Ill  hail,  Alein,  by  God  thou  is  a  fonne.*" 
These  silly  clerkes  have  full  fast  y-run 
Toward  the  fen,  both  Alein  and  eke  John; 
And  when  the  miller  saw  that  they  were  gone. 
He  half  a  bushel  of  their  flour  did  take. 
And  bade  his  wife  go  knead  it  in  a  cake. 
He  said;  I  trow,  the  clerkes  were  afeard. 
Yet  can  a  miller  *make  a  clerkes  beard,* 
For  all  his  art:  yea,  let  them  go  their  way! 
Lo  where  they  go!  yea,  let  the  children  play: 
They  get  him  not  so  lightly,  by  my  crown." 
These  silly  clerkes  runnen  up  and  down 
With  "Keep,  keep;  stand,  stand;  jossa*,  warderere. 
Go  whistle  thou,  and  I  shall  keep*  him  here." 
But  shortly,  till  that  it  was  very  night 


127 


*lost 

*careful  watch  over 
the  corn* 


*ill  luck,  a  curse 


*swift  **knows 

*both<13> 
*horse<14>  **barn 
*fool 


cheat  a  scholar*  <15> 


*turn 
*catch 


128 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


They  coulde  not,  though  they  did  all  their  might, 
Their  capel  catch,  he  ran  alway  so  fast: 
Till  in  a  ditch  they  caught  him  at  the  last. 

Weary  and  wet,  as  beastes  in  the  rain. 

Comes  silly  John,  and  with  him  comes  Alein. 

"Alas,"  quoth  John,  "the  day  that  I  was  born! 

Now  are  we  driv'n  till  hething*  and  till  scorn.  *mockery 

Our  corn  is  stol'n,  men  will  us  fonnes*  call,  *fools 

Both  the  warden,  and  eke  our  fellows  all. 

And  namely*  the  miller,  well-away!"  *especially 

Thus  plained  John,  as  he  went  by  the  way 

Toward  the  mill,  and  Bayard*  in  his  hand.  *the  bay  horse 

The  miller  sitting  by  the  fire  he  fand*.  *found 

For  it  was  night,  and  forther*  might  they  not,  *go  their  way 

But  for  the  love  of  God  they  him  besought 

Of  herberow*  and  ease,  for  their  penny.  *lodging 

The  miller  said  again,"  If  there  be  any. 

Such  as  it  is,  yet  shall  ye  have  your  part. 

Mine  house  is  strait,  but  ye  have  learned  art; 

Ye  can  by  arguments  maken  a  place 

A  mile  broad,  of  twenty  foot  of  space. 

Let  see  now  if  this  place  may  suffice. 

Or  make  it  room  with  speech,  as  is  your  guise.*"  *fashion 

"Now,  Simon,"  said  this  John,  "by  Saint  Cuthberd 

Aye  is  thou  merry,  and  that  is  fair  answer 'd. 

I  have  heard  say,  man  shall  take  of  two  things. 

Such  as  he  findes,  or  such  as  he  brings. 

But  specially  I  pray  thee,  hoste  dear. 

Gar  <16>  us  have  meat  and  drink,  and  make  us  cheer. 

And  we  shall  pay  thee  truly  at  the  full: 

With  empty  hand  men  may  not  hawkes  tull*.  *allure 

Lo  here  our  silver  ready  for  to  spend." 


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This  miller  to  the  town  his  daughter  send 

For  ale  and  bread,  and  roasted  them  a  goose. 

And  bound  their  horse,  he  should  no  more  go  loose: 

And  them  in  his  own  chamber  made  a  bed. 

With  sheetes  and  with  chalons*  fair  y-spread,  *blankets<  17> 

Not  from  his  owen  bed  ten  foot  or  twelve: 

His  daughter  had  a  bed  all  by  herselve. 

Right  in  the  same  chamber  *by  and  by*:  *side  by  side* 

It  might  no  better  be,  and  cause  why. 

There  was  no  *roomer  herberow*  in  the  place.  *roomier  lodging* 

They  suppen,  and  they  speaken  of  solace. 

And  drinken  ever  strong  ale  at  the  best. 

Aboute  midnight  went  they  all  to  rest. 

Well  had  this  miller  varnished  his  head; 

Full  pale  he  was,  fordrunken,  and  *nought  red*.       *without  his  wits* 

He  yoxed*,  and  he  spake  thorough  the  nose,  *hiccuped 

As  he  were  in  the  quakke*,  or  in  the  pose**.  *grunting  **catarrh 

To  bed  he  went,  and  with  him  went  his  wife. 

As  any  jay  she  light  was  and  jolife,*  *jo% 

So  was  her  jolly  whistle  well  y-wet. 

The  cradle  at  her  beddes  feet  was  set. 

To  rock,  and  eke  to  give  the  child  to  suck. 

And  when  that  drunken  was  all  in  the  crock*  *pitcher<  18> 

To  bedde  went  the  daughter  right  anon. 

To  bedde  went  Alein,  and  also  John. 

There  was  no  more;  needed  them  no  dwale.<19> 

This  miller  had,  so  wisly*  bibbed  ale,  *certainly 

That  as  a  horse  he  snorted  in  his  sleep. 

Nor  of  his  tail  behind  he  took  no  keep*.  *heed 

His  wife  bare  him  a  burdoun*,  a  full  strong;  *bass  <20> 

Men  might  their  routing*  hearen  a  furlong.  *snoring 

The  wenche  routed  eke  for  company. 
Alein  the  clerk,  that  heard  this  melody. 


130 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


He  poked  John,  and  saide:  "Sleepest  thou? 

Heardest  thou  ever  such  a  song  ere  now? 

Lo  what  a  compline<21  >  is  y-mell*  them  all.  *among 

A  wilde  fire  upon  their  bodies  fall, 

Who  hearken'd  ever  such  a  ferly*  thing?  *strange  <22> 

Yea,  they  shall  have  the  flow'r  of  ill  ending! 

This  longe  night  there  *tides  me*  no  rest.  *comes  to  me* 

But  yet  no  force*,  all  shall  be  for  the  best.  *matter 

For,  John,"  said  he,  "as  ever  may  I  thrive. 

If  that  I  may,  yon  wenche  will  I  swive*.  *ci^joy  carnally 

Some  easement*  has  law  y-shapen**  us  *satisfaction  **provided 

For,  John,  there  is  a  law  that  sayeth  thus, 

That  if  a  man  in  one  point  be  aggriev'd. 

That  in  another  he  shall  be  relievd. 

Our  corn  is  stol'n,  soothly  it  is  no  nay. 

And  we  have  had  an  evil  fit  to-day. 

And  since  I  shall  have  none  amendement 

Against  my  loss,  I  will  have  easement: 

By  Godde's  soul,  it  shall  none,  other  be." 

This  John  answer 'd;  Alein,  *avise  thee*:  *have  a  care* 

The  miller  is  a  perilous  man,"  he  said, 

"And  if  that  he  out  of  his  sleep  abraid*,  *awaked 

He  mighte  do  us  both  a  villainy*."  *mischief 

Alein  answer'd;  "I  count  him  not  a  fly. 

And  up  he  rose,  and  by  the  wench  he  crept. 

This  wenche  lay  upright,  and  fast  she  slept. 

Till  he  so  nigh  was,  ere  she  might  espy. 

That  it  had  been  too  late  for  to  cry: 

And,  shortly  for  to  say,  they  were  at  one. 

Now  play,  Alein,  for  I  will  speak  of  John. 


This  John  lay  still  a  furlong  way  <23  >  or  two. 

And  to  himself  he  made  ruth*  and  woe.  *wail 

"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "this  is  a  wicked  jape*;  *trick 


*adventured 

*coward 
*attempt 

*took 
*stopped  snoring* 


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Now  may  I  say,  that  I  is  but  an  ape. 

Yet  has  my  fellow  somewhat  for  his  harm; 

He  has  the  miller's  daughter  in  his  arm: 

He  auntred*  him,  and  hath  his  needes  sped. 

And  I  lie  as  a  draff-sack  in  my  bed; 

And  when  this  jape  is  told  another  day, 

I  shall  be  held  a  daffe*  or  a  cockenay  <24> 

I  will  arise,  and  auntre*  it,  by  my  fay: 

Unhardy  is  unsely,  <25>  as  men  say." 

And  up  he  rose,  and  softely  he  went 

Unto  the  cradle,  and  in  his  hand  it  hent*. 

And  bare  it  soft  unto  his  beddes  feet. 

Soon  after  this  the  wife  *her  routing  lete*. 

And  gan  awake,  and  went  her  out  to  piss 

And  came  again  and  gan  the  cradle  miss 

And  groped  here  and  there,  but  she  found  none. 

"Alas!"  quoth  she,  "I  had  almost  misgone 

I  had  almost  gone  to  the  clerkes'  bed. 

Ey!  Benedicite,  then  had  I  fouly-sped." 

And  forth  she  went,  till  she  the  cradle  fand. 

She  groped  alway  farther  with  her  hand 

And  found  the  bed,  and  *thoughte  not  but  good* 

Because  that  the  cradle  by  it  stood. 

And  wist  not  where  she  was,  for  it  was  derk; 

But  fair  and  well  she  crept  in  by  the  clerk. 

And  lay  full  still,  and  would  have  caught  a  sleep. 

Within  a  while  this  John  the  Clerk  up  leap 

And  on  this  goode  wife  laid  on  full  sore; 

So  merry  a  fit  had  she  not  had  *full  yore*.  *for  a  long  time* 

He  pricked  hard  and  deep,  as  he  were  mad. 


131 


*had  no  suspicion* 


This  jolly  life  have  these  two  clerkes  had. 
Till  that  the  thirde  cock  began  to  sing. 
Alein  wax'd  weary  in  the  morrowing. 


132 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  he  had  swonken*  all  the  longe  night,  *laboured 

And  saide;  "Farewell,  Malkin,  my  sweet  wight. 

The  day  is  come,  I  may  no  longer  bide. 

But  evermore,  where  so  I  go  or  ride, 

I  is  thine  owen  clerk,  so  have  I  hele.*"  *health 

"Now,  deare  leman*,"  quoth  she,  "go,  fare  wele:  *sweetheart 

But  ere  thou  go,  one  thing  I  will  thee  tell. 

When  that  thou  wendest  homeward  by  the  mill. 

Right  at  the  entry  of  the  door  behind 

Thou  shalt  a  cake  of  half  a  bushel  fmd. 

That  was  y-maked  of  thine  owen  meal. 

Which  that  I  help'd  my  father  for  to  steal. 

And  goode  leman,  God  thee  save  and  keep." 

And  with  that  word  she  gan  almost  to  weep. 

Alein  uprose  and  thought,  "Ere  the  day  daw 

I  will  go  creepen  in  by  my  fellaw:" 

And  found  the  cradle  with  his  hand  anon. 

"By  God!"  thought  he,  "all  wrong  I  have  misgone: 

My  head  is  *totty  of  my  swink*  to-night,  *giddy  from  my  labour* 

That  maketh  me  that  I  go  not  aright. 

I  wot  well  by  the  cradle  I  have  misgo'; 

Here  lie  the  miller  and  his  wife  also." 

And  forth  he  went  a  twenty  devil  way 

Unto  the  bed,  there  as  the  miller  lay. 

He  ween'd*  t'  have  creeped  by  his  fellow  John,  *thought 

And  by  the  miller  in  he  crept  anon. 

And  caught  him  by  the  neck,  and  gan  him  shake. 

And  said;  "Thou  John,  thou  swines-head,  awake 

For  Christes  soul,  and  hear  a  noble  game! 

For  by  that  lord  that  called  is  Saint  Jame, 

As  I  have  thries  in  this  shorte  night 

Swived  the  miller's  daughter  bolt-upright. 

While  thou  hast  as  a  coward  lain  aghast*."  *afraid 

"Thou  false  harlot,"  quoth  the  miller,  "hast? 


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133 


Ah,  false  traitor,  false  clerk,"  quoth  he, 

"Thou  shalt  be  dead,  by  Godde's  dignity. 

Who  durste  be  so  bold  to  disparage*  *disgrace 

My  daughter,  that  is  come  of  such  lineage?" 

And  by  the  throate-ball*  he  caught  Alein,  *Adam's  apple 

And  he  him  hent*  dispiteously**  again,  *seized  **angrily 

And  on  the  nose  he  smote  him  with  his  fist; 

Down  ran  the  bloody  stream  upon  his  breast: 

And  in  the  floor  with  nose  and  mouth  all  broke 

They  wallow,  as  do  two  pigs  in  a  poke. 

And  up  they  go,  and  down  again  anon. 

Till  that  the  miller  spurned*  on  a  stone,  *stumbled 

And  down  he  backward  fell  upon  his  wife. 

That  wiste  nothing  of  this  nice  strife: 

For  she  was  fall'n  asleep  a  little  wight*  *while 

With  John  the  clerk,  that  waked  had  all  night: 

And  with  the  fall  out  of  her  sleep  she  braid*.  *woke 

"Help,  holy  cross  of  Bromeholm,"  <26>  she  said; 

"In  manus  tuas!  <27>  Lord,  to  thee  I  call. 

Awake,  Simon,  the  fiend  is  on  me  fall; 

Mine  heart  is  broken;  help;  I  am  but  dead: 

There  li'th  one  on  my  womb  and  on  mine  head. 

Help,  Simkin,  for  these  false  clerks  do  fight" 

This  John  start  up  as  fast  as  e'er  he  might. 

And  groped  by  the  walles  to  and  fro 

To  find  a  staff;  and  she  start  up  also. 

And  knew  the  estres*  better  than  this  John,  *apartment 

And  by  the  wall  she  took  a  staff  anon: 

And  saw  a  little  shimmering  of  a  light. 

For  at  an  hole  in  shone  the  moone  bright. 

And  by  that  light  she  saw  them  both  the  two. 

But  sickerly*  she  wist  not  who  was  who,  *certainly 

But  as  she  saw  a  white  thing  in  her  eye. 

And  when  she  gan  this  white  thing  espy. 


134 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


She  ween'd*  the  clerk  had  wear'd  a  volupere**; 
And  with  the  staff  she  drew  aye  nere*  and  nere*, 
And  ween'd  to  have  hit  this  Alein  at  the  full, 
And  smote  the  miller  on  the  pilled*  skull; 
That  down  he  went,  and  cried,"  Harow!  I  die." 
These  clerkes  beat  him  well,  and  let  him  lie. 
And  greithen*  them,  and  take  their  horse  anon. 
And  eke  their  meal,  and  on  their  way  they  gon: 
And  at  the  mill  door  eke  they  took  their  cake 
Of  half  a  bushel  flour,  full  well  y-bake. 


supposed  **night-cap 
*nearer 

*bald 


*make  ready,  dress 


Thus  is  the  proude  miller  well  y-beat. 
And  hath  y-lost  the  grinding  of  the  wheat; 
And  payed  for  the  supper  *every  deal* 
Of  Alein  and  of  John,  that  beat  him  well; 
His  wife  is  swived,  and  his  daughter  als*; 
Lo,  such  it  is  a  miller  to  be  false. 
And  therefore  this  proverb  is  said  full  sooth, 
"*Him  thar  not  winnen  well*  that  evil  do'th, 
A  guiler  shall  himself  beguiled  be:" 
And  God  that  sitteth  high  in  majesty 
Save  all  this  Company,  both  great  and  smale. 
Thus  have  I  quit*  the  Miller  in  my  tale. 


*every  bit 


*also 


^he  deserves  not  to  gain* 


^made  myself  quits  with 


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135 


^0€^4 


The  Prologue. 

THE  Cook  of  London,  while  the  Reeve  thus  spake. 

For  joy  he  laugh'd  and  clapp'd  him  on  the  back: 

"Aha!"  quoth  he,  "for  Christes  passion. 

This  Miller  had  a  sharp  conclusion. 

Upon  this  argument  of  herbergage.*  *lodging 

Well  saide  Solomon  in  his  language. 

Bring  thou  not  every  man  into  thine  house. 

For  harbouring  by  night  is  perilous. 

*Well  ought  a  man  avised  for  to  be*         *a  man  should  take  good  heed* 

Whom  that  he  brought  into  his  privity. 

I  pray  to  God  to  give  me  sorrow  and  care 

If  ever,  since  I  highte*  Hodge  of  Ware,  *was  called 

Heard  I  a  miller  better  *set  a-work*;  *handled 

He  had  a  jape*  of  malice  in  the  derk.  *trick 

But  God  forbid  that  we  should  stinte*  here,  *stop 

And  therefore  if  ye  will  vouchsafe  to  hear 

A  tale  of  me,  that  am  a  poore  man, 

I  will  you  tell  as  well  as  e'er  I  can 

A  little  jape  that  fell  in  our  city." 


Our  Host  answer'd  and  said;  "I  grant  it  thee. 
Roger,  tell  on;  and  look  that  it  be  good. 
For  many  a  pasty  hast  thou  letten  blood. 


136 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  many  a  Jack  of  Dover<  1  >  hast  thou  sold, 

That  had  been  twice  hot  and  twice  cold. 

Of  many  a  pilgrim  hast  thou  Christe's  curse, 

For  of  thy  parsley  yet  fare  they  the  worse. 

That  they  have  eaten  in  thy  stubble  goose: 

For  in  thy  shop  doth  many  a  fly  go  loose. 

Now  tell  on,  gentle  Roger,  by  thy  name. 

But  yet  I  pray  thee  be  not  *wroth  for  game*;      *angry  with  my  jesting* 

A  man  may  say  full  sooth  in  game  and  play." 

"Thou  sayst  full  sooth,"  quoth  Roger,  "by  my  fay; 

But  sooth  play  quad  play,<2>  as  the  Fleming  saith. 

And  therefore,  Harry  Bailly,  by  thy  faith. 

Be  thou  not  wroth,  else  we  departe*  here,  *part  company 

Though  that  my  tale  be  of  an  hostelere.*  *innkeeper 

But  natheless,  I  will  not  tell  it  yet. 

But  ere  we  part,  y-wis*  thou  shalt  be  quit."<3  >  *assuredly 

And  therewithal  he  laugh'd  and  made  cheer,<4> 

And  told  his  tale,  as  ye  shall  after  hear. 


The  Tale. 


A  prentice  whilom  dwelt  in  our  city. 

And  of  a  craft  of  victuallers  was  he: 

Galliard*  he  was,  as  goldfmch  in  the  shaw**. 

Brown  as  a  berry,  a  proper  short  fellaw: 

With  lockes  black,  combed  full  fetisly* 

And  dance  he  could  so  well  and  jollily. 

That  he  was  called  Perkin  Revellour. 

He  was  as  full  of  love  and  paramour. 

As  is  the  honeycomb  of  honey  sweet; 

Well  was  the  wenche  that  with  him  might  meet. 

At  every  bridal  would  he  sing  and  hop; 

He  better  lov'd  the  tavern  than  the  shop. 


*lively  **grove 
*daintily 


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For  when  there  any  riding  was  in  Cheap,  <  1  > 
Out  of  the  shoppe  thither  would  he  leap. 
And,  till  that  he  had  all  the  sight  y-seen. 
And  danced  well,  he  would  not  come  again; 
And  gather 'd  him  a  meinie*  of  his  sort. 
To  hop  and  sing,  and  make  such  disport: 
And  there  they  *sette  Steven*  for  to  meet 
To  playen  at  the  dice  in  such  a  street. 
For  in  the  towne  was  there  no  prentice 
That  fairer  coulde  cast  a  pair  of  dice 
Than  Perkin  could;  and  thereto  *he  was  free 
Of  his  dispence,  in  place  of  privity*       where 
That  found  his  master  well  in  his  chaffare,* 
For  oftentime  he  found  his  box  full  bare. 
For,  soothely,  a  prentice  revellour. 
That  haunteth  dice,  riot,  and  paramour. 
His  master  shall  it  in  his  shop  abie*. 
All*  have  he  no  part  of  the  minstrelsy. 
For  theft  and  riot  they  be  convertible. 
All  can  they  play  on  *gitern  or  ribible.* 
Revel  and  truth,  as  in  a  low  degree. 
They  be  full  wroth*  all  day,  as  men  may  see. 


137 


*company  of  fellows 
*made  appointment* 


''he  spent  money  liberally 
he  would  not  be  seen* 
*merchandise 


*suffer  for 
*although 


*guitar  or  rebeck* 


at  variance 


This  jolly  prentice  with  his  master  bode. 
Till  he  was  nigh  out  of  his  prenticehood. 
All  were  he  snubbed*  both  early  and  late. 
And  sometimes  led  with  revel  to  Newgate. 
But  at  the  last  his  master  him  bethought. 
Upon  a  day  when  he  his  paper<2>  sought. 
Of  a  proverb,  that  saith  this  same  word; 
Better  is  rotten  apple  out  of  hoard. 
Than  that  it  should  rot  all  the  remenant: 
So  fares  it  by  a  riotous  servant; 
It  is  well  lesse  harm  to  let  him  pace*. 


*rebuked 


pass,  go 


138 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Than  he  shend*  all  the  servants  in  the  place. 
Therefore  his  master  gave  him  a  quittance, 
And  bade  him  go,  with  sorrow  and  mischance. 
And  thus  this  jolly  prentice  had  his  leve*: 
Now  let  him  riot  all  the  night,  or  leave*. 
And,  for  there  is  no  thief  without  a  louke,<3> 
That  helpeth  him  to  wasten  and  to  souk* 
Of  that  he  bribe*  can,  or  borrow  may. 
Anon  he  sent  his  bed  and  his  array 
Unto  a  compere*  of  his  owen  sort. 
That  loved  dice,  and  riot,  and  disport; 
And  had  a  wife,  that  held  *for  countenance* 
A  shop,  and  swived*  for  her  sustenance. 
<4> 


corrupt 


*desire 
*refrain 

*spend 
*steal 

*comrade 


*for  appearances* 
*prostituted  herself 


^M^  ^Ma/?i'  (^L^miP  i  c!/afe. 


The  Prologue. 


Our  Hoste  saw  well  that  the  brighte  sun 

Th'  arc  of  his  artificial  day  had  run 

The  fourthe  part,  and  half  an  houre  more; 

And,  though  he  were  not  deep  expert  in  lore. 

He  wist  it  was  the  eight-and-twenty  day 

Of  April,  that  is  messenger  to  May; 

And  saw  well  that  the  shadow  of  every  tree 

Was  in  its  length  of  the  same  quantity 

That  was  the  body  erect  that  caused  it; 

And  therefore  by  the  shadow  he  took  his  wit*. 

That  Phoebus,  which  that  shone  so  clear  and  bright. 

Degrees  was  five-and-forty  clomb  on  height; 


*knowledge 


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And  for  that  day,  as  in  that  latitude. 
It  was  ten  of  the  clock,  he  gan  conclude; 
And  suddenly  he  plight*  his  horse  about. 


139 


*pulled  <1> 


"Lordings,"  quoth  he,  "I  warn  you  all  this  rout*,  *company 

The  fourthe  partie  of  this  day  is  gone. 

Now  for  the  love  of  God  and  of  Saint  John 

Lose  no  time,  as  farforth  as  ye  may. 

Lordings,  the  time  wasteth  night  and  day. 

And  steals  from  us,  what  privily  sleeping. 

And  what  through  negligence  in  our  waking. 

As  doth  the  stream,  that  turneth  never  again. 

Descending  from  the  mountain  to  the  plain. 

Well  might  Senec,  and  many  a  philosopher, 

Bewaile  time  more  than  gold  in  coffer. 

For  loss  of  chattels  may  recover 'd  be. 

But  loss  of  time  shendeth*  us,  quoth  he.  *destroys 


It  will  not  come  again,  withoute  dread,* 

No  more  than  will  Malkin's  maidenhead, <2> 

When  she  hath  lost  it  in  her  wantonness. 

Let  us  not  moulde  thus  in  idleness. 

"Sir  Man  of  Law,"  quoth  he,  "so  have  ye  bliss. 

Tell  us  a  tale  anon,  as  forword*  is. 

Ye  be  submitted  through  your  free  assent 

To  stand  in  this  case  at  my  judgement. 

Acquit  you  now,  and  *holde  your  behest*; 

Then  have  ye  done  your  devoir*  at  the  least." 

"Hoste,"  quoth  he,  "de  par  dieuxjeo  asente;  <3> 

To  breake  forword  is  not  mine  intent. 

Behest  is  debt,  and  I  would  hold  it  fain. 

All  my  behest;  I  can  no  better  sayn. 

For  such  law  as  a  man  gives  another  wight. 

He  should  himselfe  usen  it  by  right. 


^the  bargain 


*keep  your  promise* 
*duty 


140 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Thus  will  our  text:  but  natheless  certain 

I  can  right  now  no  thrifty*  tale  sayn, 

But  Chaucer  (though  he  *can  but  lewedly* 

On  metres  and  on  rhyming  craftily) 

Hath  said  them,  in  such  English  as  he  can, 

Of  olde  time,  as  knoweth  many  a  man. 

And  if  he  have  not  said  them,  leve*  brother. 

In  one  book,  he  hath  said  them  in  another 

For  he  hath  told  of  lovers  up  and  down. 

More  than  Ovide  made  of  mentioun 

In  his  Epistolae,  that  be  full  old. 

Why  should  I  telle  them,  since  they  he  told? 

In  youth  he  made  of  Ceyx  and  Alcyon,<4> 

And  since  then  he  hath  spoke  of  every  one 

These  noble  wives,  and  these  lovers  eke. 

Whoso  that  will  his  large  volume  seek 

Called  the  Saintes'  Legend  of  Cupid:<5> 

There  may  he  see  the  large  woundes  wide 

Of  Lucrece,  and  of  Babylon  Thisbe; 

The  sword  of  Dido  for  the  false  Knee; 

The  tree  of  Phillis  for  her  Demophon; 

The  plaint  of  Diane,  and  of  Hermion, 

Of  Ariadne,  and  Hypsipile; 

The  barren  isle  standing  in  the  sea; 

The  drown'd  Leander  for  his  fair  Hero; 

The  teares  of  Helene,  and  eke  the  woe 

Of  Briseis,  and  Laodamia; 

The  cruelty  of  thee.  Queen  Medea, 

Thy  little  children  hanging  by  the  halse*. 

For  thy  Jason,  that  was  of  love  so  false. 

Hypermnestra,  Penelop',  Alcest', 

Your  wifehood  he  commendeth  with  the  best. 

But  certainly  no  worde  writeth  he 

Of  *thilke  wick'*  example  of  Canace, 


*worthy 
*knows  but  imperfectly* 


*dear 


*neck 


*that  wicked* 


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That  loved  her  own  brother  sinfully; 

(Of  all  such  cursed  stories  I  say,  Fy), 

Or  else  of  Tyrius  Apollonius, 

How  that  the  cursed  king  Antiochus 

Bereft  his  daughter  of  her  maidenhead; 

That  is  so  horrible  a  tale  to  read. 

When  he  her  threw  upon  the  pavement. 

And  therefore  he,  *of  full  avisement*,         *deliberately,  advisedly* 

Would  never  write  in  none  of  his  sermons 

Of  such  unkind*  abominations;  *unnatural 

Nor  I  will  none  rehearse,  if  that  I  may. 

But  of  my  tale  how  shall  I  do  this  day? 

Me  were  loth  to  be  liken'd  doubteless 

To  Muses,  that  men  call  Pierides<6> 

(Metamorphoseos  <7>  wot  what  I  mean). 

But  natheless  I  recke  not  a  bean. 

Though  I  come  after  him  with  hawebake*;  *lout 

I  speak  in  prose,  and  let  him  rhymes  make." 

And  with  that  word,  he  with  a  sober  cheer 

Began  his  tale,  and  said  as  ye  shall  hear. 


141 


The  Tale. 


O  scatheful  harm,  condition  of  poverty. 

With  thirst,  with  cold,  with  hunger  so  confounded; 

To  aske  help  thee  shameth  in  thine  hearte; 

If  thou  none  ask,  so  sore  art  thou  y- wounded. 

That  very  need  unwrappeth  all  thy  wound  hid. 

Maugre  thine  head  thou  must  for  indigence 

Or  steal,  or  beg,  or  borrow  thy  dispence*. 


expense 


Thou  blamest  Christ,  and  sayst  full  bitterly. 
He  misdeparteth*  riches  temporal; 


*allots  amiss 


142 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Thy  neighebour  thou  witest*  sinfully, 
And  sayst,  thou  hast  too  little,  and  he  hath  all: 
"Parfay  (sayst  thou)  sometime  he  reckon  shall. 
When  that  his  tail  shall  *brennen  in  the  glede*. 
For  he  not  help'd  the  needful  in  their  need." 


*blamest 


*burn  in  the  fire* 


Hearken  what  is  the  sentence  of  the  wise: 
Better  to  die  than  to  have  indigence. 
*Thy  selve*  neighebour  will  thee  despise. 
If  thou  be  poor,  farewell  thy  reverence. 
Yet  of  the  wise  man  take  this  sentence, 
Alle  the  days  of  poore  men  be  wick'*. 
Beware  therefore  ere  thou  come  to  that  prick*. 


*that  same* 


*wicked,  evil 
*point 


If  thou  be  poor,  thy  brother  hateth  thee. 

And  all  thy  friendes  flee  from  thee,  alas! 

O  riche  merchants,  full  of  wealth  be  ye, 

O  noble,  prudent  folk,  as  in  this  case. 

Your  bagges  be  not  fill'd  with  *ambes  ace,*  *two  aces* 

But  with  *six-cinque*,  that  runneth  for  your  chance; <2>        *six-five* 

At  Christenmass  well  merry  may  ye  dance. 


Ye  seeke  land  and  sea  for  your  winnings. 
As  wise  folk  ye  knowen  all  th'  estate 
Of  regnes*;  ye  be  fathers  of  tidings. 
And  tales,  both  of  peace  and  of  debate*: 
I  were  right  now  of  tales  desolate*. 
But  that  a  merchant,  gone  in  many  a  year. 
Me  taught  a  tale,  which  ye  shall  after  hear. 


*kingdoms 
*contention,  war 
*barren,  empty. 


In  Syria  whilom  dwelt  a  company 
Of  chapmen  rich,  and  thereto  sad*  and  true. 
Clothes  of  gold,  and  satins  rich  of  hue. 
That  widewhere*  sent  their  spicery. 


*grave,  steadfast 
*to  distant  parts 


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143 


Their  chaffare*  was  so  thriftly**  and  so  new. 
That  every  wight  had  dainty*  to  chaffare** 
With  them,  and  eke  to  selle  them  their  ware. 


*wares  **advantageous 
*pleasure  **deal 


Now  fell  it,  that  the  masters  of  that  sort 
Have  *shapen  them*  to  Rome  for  to  wend. 
Were  it  for  chapmanhood*  or  for  disport. 
None  other  message  would  they  thither  send. 
But  come  themselves  to  Rome,  this  is  the  end: 
And  in  such  place  as  thought  them  a  vantage 
For  their  intent,  they  took  their  herbergage.* 


*determined,  prepared* 
*trading 


*lodging 


Sojourned  have  these  merchants  in  that  town 
A  certain  time  as  fell  to  their  pleasance: 
And  so  befell,  that  th'  excellent  renown 
Of  th'  emperore's  daughter.  Dame  Constance, 
Reported  was,  with  every  circumstance. 
Unto  these  Syrian  merchants  in  such  wise. 
From  day  to  day,  as  I  shall  you  devise* 


*relate 


This  was  the  common  voice  of  every  man 

"Our  emperor  of  Rome,  God  him  see*, 

A  daughter  hath,  that  since  the  the  world  began. 

To  reckon  as  well  her  goodness  and  beauty. 

Was  never  such  another  as  is  she: 

I  pray  to  God  in  honour  her  sustene*. 

And  would  she  were  of  all  Europe  the  queen. 


''look  on  with  favour 


sustam 


"In  her  is  highe  beauty  without  pride. 
And  youth  withoute  greenhood*  or  folly: 
To  all  her  workes  virtue  is  her  guide; 
Humbless  hath  slain  in  her  all  tyranny: 
She  is  the  mirror  of  all  courtesy. 
Her  heart  a  very  chamber  of  holiness. 


*childishness,  immaturity 


144 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Her  hand  minister  of  freedom  for  almess* 


*almsgiving 


And  all  this  voice  was  sooth,  as  God  is  true; 

But  now  to  purpose*  let  us  turn  again.  *our  tale  <3> 

These  merchants  have  done  freight  their  shippes  new, 

And  when  they  have  this  blissful  maiden  seen. 

Home  to  Syria  then  they  went  full  fain. 

And  did  their  needes*,  as  they  have  done  yore,*     *business  **formerly 

And  liv'd  in  weal*;  I  can  you  say  no  more.  *prosperity 


Now  fell  it,  that  these  merchants  stood  in  grace* 
Of  him  that  was  the  Soudan*  of  Syrie: 
For  when  they  came  from  any  strange  place 
He  would  of  his  benigne  courtesy 
Make  them  good  cheer,  and  busily  espy* 
Tidings  of  sundry  regnes*,  for  to  lear** 
The  wonders  that  they  mighte  see  or  hear. 


*favour 
*Sultan 


mquire 
Vealms  **learn 


Amonges  other  thinges,  specially 

These  merchants  have  him  told  of  Dame  Constance 

So  great  nobless,  in  earnest  so  royally. 

That  this  Soudan  hath  caught  so  great  pleasance*  *pleasure 

To  have  her  figure  in  his  remembrance. 

That  all  his  lust*,  and  all  his  busy  cure**,  *pleasure  **care 

Was  for  to  love  her  while  his  life  may  dure. 


Paraventure  in  thilke*  large  book. 

Which  that  men  call  the  heaven,  y-written  was 

With  starres,  when  that  he  his  birthe  took. 

That  he  for  love  should  have  his  death,  alas! 

For  in  the  starres,  clearer  than  is  glass. 

Is  written,  God  wot,  whoso  could  it  read. 

The  death  of  every  man  withoute  dread.* 


*that 


*doubt 


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In  starres  many  a  winter  therebeforn 
Was  writ  the  death  of  Hector,  Achilles, 
Of  Pompey,  Julius,  ere  they  were  born; 
The  strife  of  Thebes;  and  of  Hercules, 
Of  Samson,  Turnus,  and  of  Socrates 
The  death;  but  mennes  wittes  be  so  dull. 
That  no  wight  can  well  read  it  at  the  full. 


145 


This  Soudan  for  his  privy  council  sent. 

And,  *shortly  of  this  matter  for  to  pace*. 

He  hath  to  them  declared  his  intent. 

And  told  them  certain,  but*  he  might  have  grace 

To  have  Constance,  within  a  little  space. 

He  was  but  dead;  and  charged  them  in  hie* 

To  shape*  for  his  life  some  remedy. 


to  pass  briefly  by* 

*unless 

*haste 
*contrive 


Diverse  men  diverse  thinges  said; 

And  arguments  they  casten  up  and  down; 

Many  a  subtle  reason  forth  they  laid; 

They  speak  of  magic,  and  abusion*; 

But  fmally,  as  in  conclusion. 

They  cannot  see  in  that  none  avantage. 

Nor  in  no  other  way,  save  marriage. 


*deception 


Then  saw  they  therein  such  difficulty 

Byway  of  reason,  for  to  speak  all  plain. 

Because  that  there  was  such  diversity 

Between  their  bothe  lawes,  that  they  sayn. 

They  trowe*  that  no  Christian  prince  would  fain*' 

Wedden  his  child  under  our  lawe  sweet. 

That  us  was  given  by  Mahound*  our  prophete. 


*believe  **willingly 


*Mahomet 


And  he  answered:  "Rather  than  I  lose 
Constance,  I  will  be  christen'd  doubteless 


146 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


I  must  be  hers,  I  may  none  other  choose, 

I  pray  you  hold  your  arguments  in  peace, <4> 

Save  my  life,  and  be  not  reckeless 

To  gette  her  that  hath  my  life  in  cure,*  *keeping 

For  in  this  woe  I  may  not  long  endure." 

What  needeth  greater  dilatation? 

I  say,  by  treaty  and  ambassadry. 

And  by  the  Pope's  mediation. 

And  all  the  Church,  and  all  the  chivalry. 

That  in  destruction  of  Mah'metry,*  *Mahometanism 

And  in  increase  of  Christe's  lawe  dear. 

They  be  accorded*  so  as  ye  may  hear;  *agreed 

How  that  the  Soudan,  and  his  baronage. 

And  all  his  lieges,  shall  y-christen'd  be. 

And  he  shall  have  Constance  in  marriage. 

And  certain  gold,  I  not*  what  quantity,  *know  not 

And  hereto  fmd  they  suffisant  surety 

The  same  accord  is  sworn  on  either  side; 

Now,  fair  Constance,  Almighty  God  thee  guide! 

Now  woulde  some  men  waiten,  as  I  guess. 

That  I  should  tellen  all  the  purveyance*,  *provision 

The  which  the  emperor  of  his  noblesse 

Hath  shapen*  for  his  daughter.  Dame  Constance.  *prepared 

Well  may  men  know  that  so  great  ordinance 

May  no  man  tellen  in  a  little  clause. 

As  was  arrayed  for  so  high  a  cause. 

Bishops  be  shapen  with  her  for  to  wend, 
Lordes,  ladies,  and  knightes  of  renown. 
And  other  folk  enough,  this  is  the  end. 
And  notified  is  throughout  all  the  town. 


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That  every  wight  with  great  devotioun 

Should  pray  to  Christ,  that  he  this  marriage 

Receive  *in  gree*,  and  speede  this  voyage.      *with  good  will,  favour* 


147 


The  day  is  comen  of  her  departing,  — 

I  say  the  woful  fatal  day  is  come. 

That  there  may  be  no  longer  tarrying. 

But  forward  they  them  dressen*  all  and  some. 

Constance,  that  was  with  sorrow  all  o'ercome. 

Full  pale  arose,  and  dressed  her  to  wend. 

For  well  she  saw  there  was  no  other  end. 


prepare  to  set  out 


Alas!  what  wonder  is  it  though  she  wept. 

That  shall  be  sent  to  a  strange  nation 

From  friendes,  that  so  tenderly  her  kept. 

And  to  be  bound  under  subjection 

of  one,  she  knew  not  his  condition? 

Husbands  be  all  good,  and  have  been  *of  yore*. 

That  knowe  wives;  I  dare  say  no  more. 


*ofold* 


"Father,"  she  said,  "thy  wretched  child  Constance, 
Thy  younge  daughter,  foster'd  up  so  soft. 
And  you,  my  mother,  my  sov'reign  pleasance 
Over  all  thing,  out-taken*  Christ  *on  loft*,  ' 

Constance  your  child  her  recommendeth  oft 
Unto  your  grace;  for  I  shall  to  Syrie, 
Nor  shall  I  ever  see  you  more  with  eye. 


^except  *on  high* 


"Alas!  unto  the  barbarous  nation 

I  must  anon,  since  that  it  is  your  will: 

But  Christ,  that  starP  for  our  redemption,  *died 

So  give  me  grace  his  hestes*  to  fulfil.  *commands 

I,  wretched  woman,  *no  force  though  I  spill!*  *no  matter  though 

Women  are  born  to  thraldom  and  penance,  I  perish* 


148 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  to  be  under  mannes  governance." 

I  trow  at  Troy  when  Pyrrhus  brake  the  wall, 

Or  Ilion  burnt,  or  Thebes  the  city. 

Nor  at  Rome  for  the  harm  through  Hannibal, 

That  Romans  hath  y-vanquish'd  times  three. 

Was  heard  such  tender  weeping  for  pity. 

As  in  the  chamber  was  for  her  parting; 

But  forth  she  must,  whether  she  weep  or  sing. 


O  firste  moving  cruel  Firmament,<5> 
With  thy  diurnal  sway  that  crowdest*  aye. 
And  hurtlest  all  from  East  till  Occident 
That  naturally  would  hold  another  way; 
Thy  crowding  set  the  heav'n  in  such  array 
At  the  beginning  of  this  fierce  voyage. 
That  cruel  Mars  hath  slain  this  marriage. 


*pushest  together,  drivest 


Unfortunate  ascendant  tortuous. 

Of  which  the  lord  is  helpless  fall'n,  alas! 

Out  of  his  angle  into  the  darkest  house; 

O  Mars,  O  Atyzar,<6>  as  in  this  case; 

O  feeble  Moon,  unhappy  is  thy  pace.*  *progress 

Thou  knittest  thee  where  thou  art  not  receiv'd. 

Where  thou  wert  well,  from  thennes  art  thou  weiv'd.  <7> 


Imprudent  emperor  of  Rome,  alas! 
Was  there  no  philosopher  in  all  thy  town? 
Is  no  time  bet*  than  other  in  such  case? 
Of  voyage  is  there  none  election. 
Namely*  to  folk  of  high  condition. 
Not  *when  a  root  is  of  a  birth  y-know?* 
Alas!  we  be  too  lewed*,  or  too  slow. 


*better 

*especially 

when  the  nativity  is  known* 

*ignorant 


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To  ship  was  brought  this  woeful  faire  maid 

Solemnely,  with  every  circumstance: 

"Now  Jesus  Christ  be  with  you  all,"  she  said. 

There  is  no  more,but  "Farewell,  fair  Constance." 

She  *pained  her*  to  make  good  countenance.  *made  an  effort* 

And  forth  I  let  her  sail  in  this  manner. 

And  turn  I  will  again  to  my  matter. 


The  mother  of  the  Soudan,  well  of  vices. 
Espied  hath  her  sone's  plain  intent. 
How  he  will  leave  his  olde  sacrifices: 
And  right  anon  she  for  her  council  sent. 
And  they  be  come,  to  knowe  what  she  meant. 
And  when  assembled  was  this  folk  *in  fere*. 
She  sat  her  down,  and  said  as  ye  shall  hear. 


*together* 


"Lordes,"  she  said,  "ye  knowen  every  one. 
How  that  my  son  in  point  is  for  to  lete* 
The  holy  lawes  of  our  Alkaron*, 
Given  by  God's  messenger  Mahomete: 
But  one  avow  to  greate  God  I  hete*. 
Life  shall  rather  out  of  my  body  start. 
Than  Mahomet's  law  go  out  of  mine  heart. 


*forsake 
*Koran 

*promise 


"What  should  us  tiden*  of  this  newe  law. 
But  thraldom  to  our  bodies,  and  penance. 
And  afterward  in  hell  to  be  y-draw. 
For  we  *renied  Mahound  our  creance?* 
But,  lordes,  will  ye  maken  assurance. 
As  I  shall  say,  assenting  to  my  lore*? 
And  I  shall  make  us  safe  for  evermore." 


*betide,  befall 


*denied  Mahomet  our  belieP 


*advice 


They  sworen  and  assented  every  man 

To  live  with  her  and  die,  and  by  her  stand: 


150 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  every  one,  in  the  best  wise  he  can, 

To  strengthen  her  shall  all  his  friendes  fand.*  *endeavour<8> 

And  she  hath  this  emprise  taken  in  hand. 

Which  ye  shall  heare  that  I  shall  devise*;  *relate 

And  to  them  all  she  spake  right  in  this  wise. 

"We  shall  first  feign  us  *Christendom  to  take*;    *embrace  Christianity* 

Cold  water  shall  not  grieve  us  but  a  lite*:  *little 

And  I  shall  such  a  feast  and  revel  make. 

That,  as  I  trow,  I  shall  the  Soudan  quite.*  *requite,  match 

For  though  his  wife  be  christen'd  ne'er  so  white. 

She  shall  have  need  to  wash  away  the  red. 

Though  she  a  fount  of  water  with  her  led." 


O  Soudaness*,  root  of  iniquity,  *Sultaness 

Virago  thou,  Semiramis  the  second! 

O  serpent  under  femininity. 

Like  to  the  serpent  deep  in  hell  y-bound! 

O  feigned  woman,  all  that  may  confound 

Virtue  and  innocence,  through  thy  malice. 

Is  bred  in  thee,  as  nest  of  every  vice! 

O  Satan  envious!  since  thilke  day 
That  thou  wert  chased  from  our  heritage. 
Well  knowest  thou  to  woman  th'  olde  way. 
Thou  madest  Eve  to  bring  us  in  servage*: 
Thou  wilt  fordo*  this  Christian  marriage: 
Thine  instrument  so  (well- away  the  while!) 
Mak'st  thou  of  women  when  thou  wilt  beguile. 

This  Soudaness,  whom  I  thus  blame  and  warray*. 
Let  privily  her  council  go  their  way: 
Why  should  I  in  this  tale  longer  tarry? 
She  rode  unto  the  Soudan  on  a  day. 


*bondage 
*ruin 


oppose,  censure 


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151 


And  said  him,  that  she  would  *reny  her  lay,* 
And  Christendom  of  priestes'  handes  fong*. 
Repenting  her  she  heathen  was  so  long; 


*renounce  her  creed* 
*take<9> 


Beseeching  him  to  do  her  that  honour. 

That  she  might  have  the  Christian  folk  to  feast: 

"To  please  them  I  will  do  my  labour." 

The  Soudan  said,  "I  will  do  at  your  best,*" 

And  kneeling,  thanked  her  for  that  request; 

So  glad  he  was,  he  wist*  not  what  to  say. 

She  kiss'd  her  son,  and  home  she  went  her  way. 


*desire 
*knew 


Arrived  be  these  Christian  folk  to  land 
In  Syria,  with  a  great  solemne  rout. 
And  hastily  this  Soudan  sent  his  sond,* 
First  to  his  mother,  and  all  the  realm  about. 
And  said,  his  wife  was  comen  out  of  doubt. 
And  pray'd  them  for  to  ride  again*  the  queen. 
The  honour  of  his  regne*  to  sustene. 


message 


to  meet 
*realm 


Great  was  the  press,  and  rich  was  the  array 
Of  Syrians  and  Romans  met  *in  fere*. 
The  mother  of  the  Soudan  rich  and  gay 
Received  her  with  all  so  glad  a  cheer* 
As  any  mother  might  her  daughter  dear 
And  to  the  nexte  city  there  beside 
A  softe  pace  solemnely  they  ride. 


m  company 
*face 


Nought,  trow  I,  the  triumph  of  Julius 
Of  which  that  Lucan  maketh  such  a  boast. 
Was  royaller,  or  more  curious. 
Than  was  th'  assembly  of  this  blissful  host 
But  O  this  scorpion,  this  wicked  ghost,* 
The  Soudaness,  for  all  her  flattering 


''spirit 


152 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Cast*  under  this  full  mortally  to  sting. 


*contrived 


The  Soudan  came  himself  soon  after  this, 

So  royally,  that  wonder  is  to  tell. 

And  welcomed  her  with  all  joy  and  bliss. 

And  thus  in  mirth  and  joy  I  let  them  dwell. 

The  fruit  of  his  matter  is  that  I  tell; 

When  the  time  came,  men  thought  it  for  the  best 

That  revel  stint,*  and  men  go  to  their  rest. 

The  time  is  come  that  this  old  Soudaness 
Ordained  hath  the  feast  of  which  I  told. 
And  to  the  feast  the  Christian  folk  them  dress 
In  general,  yea,  bothe  young  and  old. 
There  may  men  feast  and  royalty  behold. 
And  dainties  more  than  I  can  you  devise; 
But  all  too  dear  they  bought  it  ere  they  rise. 


O  sudden  woe,  that  ev'r  art  successour 

To  worldly  bliss!  sprent*  is  with  bitterness 

Th'  end  of  our  joy,  of  our  worldly  labour; 

Woe  *occupies  the  fme*  of  our  gladness. 

Hearken  this  counsel,  for  thy  sickerness*: 

Upon  thy  glade  days  have  in  thy  mind 

The  unware*  woe  of  harm,  that  comes  behind. 


*sprinkled 

*seizes  the  end* 
*security 

*unforeseen 


For,  shortly  for  to  tell  it  at  a  word. 
The  Soudan  and  the  Christians  every  one 
Were  all  *to-hewn  and  sticked*  at  the  board. 
But  it  were  only  Dame  Constance  alone. 
This  olde  Soudaness,  this  cursed  crone. 
Had  with  her  friendes  done  this  cursed  deed. 
For  she  herself  would  all  the  country  lead. 


cut  to  pieces 


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153 


Nor  there  was  Syrian  that  was  converted. 
That  of  the  counsel  of  the  Soudan  wot*. 
That  was  not  all  to-hewn,  ere  he  asterted*: 
And  Constance  have  they  ta'en  anon  foot-hot*. 
And  in  a  ship  all  steereless,*  God  wot. 
They  have  her  set,  and  bid  her  learn  to  sail 
Out  of  Syria  *again-ward  to  Itale.* 

A  certain  treasure  that  she  thither  lad,* 
And,  sooth  to  say,  of  victual  great  plenty. 
They  have  her  giv'n,  and  clothes  eke  she  had 
And  forth  she  sailed  in  the  salte  sea: 
O  my  Constance,  full  of  benignity, 
O  emperores  younge  daughter  dear. 
He  that  is  lord  of  fortune  be  thy  steer*! 


*knew 
*escaped 
*immediately 
*without  rudder 

*back  to  Italy* 

*took 


*rudder,  guide 


She  bless'd  herself,  and  with  full  piteous  voice 

Unto  the  cross  of  Christ  thus  saide  she; 

"O  dear,  O  wealful*  altar,  holy  cross,  *blessed,  beneficent 

Red  of  the  Lambes  blood,  full  of  pity. 

That  wash'd  the  world  from  old  iniquity. 

Me  from  the  fiend  and  from  his  clawes  keep. 

That  day  that  I  shall  drenchen*  in  the  deepe.  *drown 


"Victorious  tree,  protection  of  the  true. 

That  only  worthy  were  for  to  bear 

The  King  of  Heaven,  with  his  woundes  new. 

The  white  Lamb,  that  hurt  was  with  a  spear; 

Flemer*  of  fiendes  out  of  him  and  her 

On  which  thy  limbes  faithfully  extend, <  10 > 

Me  keep,  and  give  me  might  my  life  to  mend.' 


banisher,  driver  out 


Yeares  and  days  floated  this  creature 
Throughout  the  sea  of  Greece,  unto  the  strait 


154 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*Morocco;  Gibraltar 


Of  Maroc*,  as  it  was  her  a  venture: 

On  many  a  sorry  meal  now  may  she  bait, 

After  her  death  full  often  may  she  wait*,  *expect 

Ere  that  the  wilde  waves  will  her  drive 

Unto  the  place  *there  as*  she  shall  arrive.  *where 

Men  mighten  aske,  why  she  was  not  slain? 

Eke  at  the  feast  who  might  her  body  save? 

And  I  answer  to  that  demand  again. 

Who  saved  Daniel  in  the  horrible  cave. 

Where  every  wight,  save  he,  master  or  knave*,  *servant 

Was  with  the  lion  frett*,  ere  he  astart?**  *devoured  **  escaped 

No  wight  but  God,  that  he  bare  in  his  heart. 


God  list*  to  shew  his  wonderful  miracle 
In  her,  that  we  should  see  his  mighty  workes: 
Christ,  which  that  is  to  every  harm  triacle*. 
By  certain  meanes  oft,  as  knowe  clerkes*. 
Doth  thing  for  certain  ende,  that  full  derk  is 
To  manne's  wit,  that  for  our,  ignorance 
Ne  cannot  know  his  prudent  purveyance*. 

Now  since  she  was  not  at  the  feast  y-slaw,* 

Who  kepte  her  from  drowning  in  the  sea? 

Who  kepte  Jonas  in  the  fish's  maw. 

Till  he  was  spouted  up  at  Nineveh? 

Well  may  men  know,  it  was  no  wight  but  he 

That  kept  the  Hebrew  people  from  drowning. 

With  drye  feet  throughout  the  sea  passing. 

Who  bade  the  foure  spirits  of  tempest,<ll> 
That  power  have  t'  annoye  land  and  sea. 
Both  north  and  south,  and  also  west  and  east, 
Annoye  neither  sea,  nor  land,  nor  tree? 


*it  pleased 

*remedy,  salve 
*scholars 


*foresight 
*slain 


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Soothly  the  commander  of  that  was  he 
That  from  the  tempest  aye  this  woman  kept. 
As  well  when  she  awoke  as  when  she  slept. 


155 


Where  might  this  woman  meat  and  drinke  have? 

Three  year  and  more  how  lasted  her  vitaille*? 

Who  fed  the  Egyptian  Mary  in  the  cave 

Or  in  desert?  no  wight  but  Christ  *sans  faille.* 

Five  thousand  folk  it  was  as  great  marvaille 

With  loaves  five  and  fishes  two  to  feed 

God  sent  his  foison*  at  her  greate  need. 

She  drived  forth  into  our  ocean 
Throughout  our  wilde  sea,  till  at  the  last 
Under  an  hold*,  that  nempnen**  I  not  can. 
Far  in  Northumberland,  the  wave  her  cast 
And  in  the  sand  her  ship  sticked  so  fast 
That  thennes  would  it  not  in  all  a  tide:  <12> 
The  will  of  Christ  was  that  she  should  abide. 

The  Constable  of  the  castle  down  did  fare* 
To  see  this  wreck,  and  all  the  ship  he  sought*. 
And  found  this  weary  woman  full  of  care; 
He  found  also  the  treasure  that  she  brought: 
In  her  language  mercy  she  besought. 
The  life  out  of  her  body  for  to  twin*. 
Her  to  deliver  of  woe  that  she  was  in. 

A  manner  Latin  corrupt  <  13>  was  her  speech. 
But  algate*  thereby  was  she  understond. 
The  Constable,  when  him  list  no  longer  seech*. 
This  woeful  woman  brought  he  to  the  lond. 
She  kneeled  down,  and  thanked  *Godde's  sond*; 
But  what  she  was  she  would  to  no  man  say 


ictuals 


*without  fail* 


*abundance 


*castle ' 


*searched 


*divide 


*nevertheless 
*search 

*what  God  had  sent* 


156 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  foul  nor  fair,  although  that  she  should  dey.* 

She  said,  she  was  so  mazed  in  the  sea. 
That  she  forgot  her  minde,  by  her  truth. 
The  Constable  had  of  her  so  great  pity 
And  eke  his  wife,  that  they  wept  for  ruth:* 
She  was  so  diligent  withoute  slouth 
To  serve  and  please  every  one  in  that  place. 
That  all  her  lov'd,  that  looked  in  her  face. 

The  Constable  and  Dame  Hermegild  his  wife 
Were  Pagans,  and  that  country  everywhere; 
But  Hermegild  lov'd  Constance  as  her  life; 
And  Constance  had  so  long  sojourned  there 
In  orisons,  with  many  a  bitter  tear. 
Till  Jesus  had  converted  through  His  grace 
Dame  Hermegild,  Constabless  of  that  place. 

In  all  that  land  no  Christians  durste  rout;* 
All  Christian  folk  had  fled  from  that  country 
Through  Pagans,  that  conquered  all  about 
The  plages*  of  the  North  by  land  and  sea. 
To  Wales  had  fled  the  *Christianity 
Of  olde  Britons,*  dwelling  in  this  isle; 
There  was  their  refuge  for  the  meanewhile. 


*die 


pity 


*assemble 


regions,  coasts 
the  Old  Britons  who 
were  Christians* 


But  yet  n'ere*  Christian  Britons  so  exiled. 
That  there  n'ere*  some  which  in  their  privity 
Honoured  Christ,  and  heathen  folk  beguiled; 
And  nigh  the  castle  such  there  dwelled  three: 
And  one  of  them  was  blind,  and  might  not  see. 
But*  it  were  with  thilk*  eyen  of  his  mind. 
With  which  men  maye  see  when  they  be  blind. 


*there  were 
not 


*except  **those 


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Bright  was  the  sun,  as  in  a  summer's  day. 

For  which  the  Constable,  and  his  wife  also. 

And  Constance,  have  y-take  the  righte  way 

Toward  the  sea  a  furlong  way  or  two. 

To  playen,  and  to  roame  to  and  fro; 

And  in  their  walk  this  blinde  man  they  met. 

Crooked  and  old,  with  eyen  fast  y-shet.*  *shut 

"In  the  name  of  Christ,"  cried  this  blind  Briton, 

"Dame  Hermegild,  give  me  my  sight  again!" 

This  lady  *wax'd  afrayed  of  that  soun',*       *was  alarmed  by  that  cry* 

Lest  that  her  husband,  shortly  for  to  sayn. 

Would  her  for  Jesus  Christe's  love  have  slain. 

Till  Constance  made  her  hold,  and  bade  her  wirch*  *work 

The  will  of  Christ,  as  daughter  of  holy  Church 


157 


The  Constable  wax'd  abashed*  of  that  sight. 
And  saide;  *"What  amounteth  all  this  fare?"* 
Constance  answered;  "Sir,  it  is  Christ's  might. 
That  helpeth  folk  out  of  the  fiendes  snare:" 
And  *so  farforth*  she  gan  our  law  declare. 
That  she  the  Constable,  ere  that  it  were  eve. 
Converted,  and  on  Christ  made  him  believe. 

This  Constable  was  not  lord  of  the  place 
Of  which  I  speak,  there  as  he  Constance  fand,* 
But  kept  it  strongly  many  a  winter  space. 
Under  Alia,  king  of  Northumberland, 
That  was  full  wise,  and  worthy  of  his  hand 
Against  the  Scotes,  as  men  may  well  hear; 
But  turn  I  will  again  to  my  mattere. 

Satan,  that  ever  us  waiteth  to  beguile. 
Saw  of  Constance  all  her  perfectioun. 


*astonished 

*what  means  all 

this  ado?* 

*with  such  effect* 


*found 


158 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  *cast  anon  how  he  might  quite  her  while;*    *considered  how  to  have 

And  made  a  young  knight,  that  dwelt  in  that  town,         revenge  on  her* 

Love  her  so  hot  of  foul  affectioun. 

That  verily  him  thought  that  he  should  spill*  *perish 

But*  he  of  her  might  ones  have  his  will.  *unless 


He  wooed  her,  but  it  availed  nought; 

She  woulde  do  no  sinne  by  no  way: 

And  for  despite,  he  compassed  his  thought 

To  make  her  a  shameful  death  to  dey;* 

He  waiteth  when  the  Constable  is  away. 

And  privily  upon  a  night  he  crept 

In  Hermegilda's  chamber  while  she  slept. 


*die 


Weary,  forwaked*  in  her  orisons, 

Sleepeth  Constance,  and  Hermegild  also. 

This  knight,  through  Satanas'  temptation; 

All  softetly  is  to  the  bed  y-go,* 

And  cut  the  throat  of  Hermegild  in  two. 

And  laid  the  bloody  knife  by  Dame  Constance, 

And  went  his  way,  there  God  give  him  mischance, 


having  been  long  awake 


gone 


Soon  after  came  the  Constable  home  again. 

And  eke  Alia  that  king  was  of  that  land. 

And  saw  his  wife  dispiteously*  slain. 

For  which  full  oft  he  wept  and  wrung  his  hand; 

And  ill  the  bed  the  bloody  knife  he  fand 

By  Dame  Constance:  Alas!  what  might  she  say? 

For  very  woe  her  wit  was  all  away. 


*cruelly 


To  King  Alia  was  told  all  this  mischance 
And  eke  the  time,  and  where,  and  in  what  wise 
That  in  a  ship  was  founden  this  Constance, 
As  here  before  ye  have  me  heard  devise:* 


*describe 


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The  kinges  heart  for  pity  *gan  agrise,* 
When  he  saw  so  benign  a  creature 
Fall  in  disease*  and  in  misaventure. 


159 


*to  be  grieved,  to  tremble* 
*distress 


For  as  the  lamb  toward  his  death  is  brought. 

So  stood  this  innocent  before  the  king: 

This  false  knight,  that  had  this  treason  wrought, 

*Bore  her  in  hand*  that  she  had  done  this  thing:   *accused  her  falsely* 

But  natheless  there  was  great  murmuring 

Among  the  people,  that  say  they  cannot  guess 

That  she  had  done  so  great  a  wickedness. 


For  they  had  seen  her  ever  virtuous. 
And  loving  Hermegild  right  as  her  life: 
Of  this  bare  witness  each  one  in  that  house. 
Save  he  that  Hermegild  slew  with  his  knife: 
This  gentle  king  had  *caught  a  great  motife* 
Of  this  witness,  and  thought  he  would  inquere 
Deeper  into  this  case,  the  truth  to  lear.* 


Alas!  Constance,  thou  has  no  champion. 
Nor  fighte  canst  thou  not,  so  well-away! 
But  he  that  starf  for  our  redemption. 
And  bound  Satan,  and  yet  li'th  where  he  lay. 
So  be  thy  stronge  champion  this  day: 
For,  but  Christ  upon  thee  miracle  kithe,* 
Withoute  guilt  thou  shalt  be  slain  *as  swithe.* 

She  set  her  down  on  knees,  and  thus  she  said; 
"Immortal  God,  that  savedest  Susanne 
From  false  blame;  and  thou  merciful  maid, 
Mary  I  mean,  the  daughter  to  Saint  Anne, 
Before  whose  child  the  angels  sing  Osanne,* 
If  I  be  guiltless  of  this  felony. 


*been  greatly  moved 
by  the  evidence* 
*learn 


*died 

*show 
*immediately* 


*Hosanna 


160 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


My  succour  be,  or  elles  shall  I  die." 

Have  ye  not  seen  sometime  a  pale  face 

(Among  a  press)  of  him  that  hath  been  lad*  *led 

Toward  his  death,  where  he  getteth  no  grace. 

And  such  a  colour  in  his  face  hath  had. 

Men  mighte  know  him  that  was  so  bestad*  *bested,  situated 

Amonges  all  the  faces  in  that  rout? 

So  stood  Constance,  and  looked  her  about. 

O  queenes  living  in  prosperity. 

Duchesses,  and  ye  ladies  every  one. 

Have  some  ruth*  on  her  adversity!  *pity 

An  emperor's  daughter,  she  stood  alone; 

She  had  no  wight  to  whom  to  make  her  moan. 

O  blood  royal,  that  standest  in  this  drede,*  *danger 

Far  be  thy  friendes  in  thy  greate  need! 


This  king  Alia  had  such  compassioun. 
As  gentle  heart  is  full  filled  of  pity. 
That  from  his  eyen  ran  the  water  down 
"Now  hastily  do  fetch  a  book,"  quoth  he; 
"And  if  this  knight  will  sweare,  how  that  she 
This  woman  slew,  yet  will  we  us  advise* 
Whom  that  we  will  that  shall  be  our  justice." 


*consider 


A  Briton  book,  written  with  Evangiles,* 
Was  fetched,  and  on  this  book  he  swore  anon 
She  guilty  was;  and,  in  the  meanewhiles. 
An  hand  him  smote  upon  the  necke  bone. 
That  down  he  fell  at  once  right  as  a  stone: 
And  both  his  eyen  burst  out  of  his  face 
In  sight  of  ev'rybody  in  that  place. 


*the  Gospels 


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A  voice  was  heard,  in  general  audience. 

That  said;  "Thou  hast  deslander'd  guilteless 

The  daughter  of  holy  Church  in  high  presence; 

Thus  hast  thou  done,  and  yet  *hold  I  my  peace?" 

Of  this  marvel  aghast  was  all  the  press. 

As  mazed  folk  they  stood  every  one 

For  dread  of  wreake,*  save  Constance  alone. 


161 


*shall  I  be  silent?* 


vengeance 


Great  was  the  dread  and  eke  the  repentance 
Of  them  that  hadde  wrong  suspicion 
Upon  this  sely*  innocent  Constance; 
And  for  this  miracle,  in  conclusion. 
And  by  Constance's  mediation. 
The  king,  and  many  another  in  that  place. 
Converted  was,  thanked  be  Christe's  grace! 


*simple,  harmless 


This  false  knight  was  slain  for  his  untruth 

By  judgement  of  Alia  hastily; 

And  yet  Constance  had  of  his  death  great  ruth;* 

And  after  this  Jesus  of  his  mercy 

Made  Alia  wedde  full  solemnely 

This  holy  woman,  that  is  so  bright  and  sheen. 

And  thus  hath  Christ  y-made  Constance  a  queen. 


compassion 


But  who  was  woeful,  if  I  shall  not  lie. 

Of  this  wedding  but  Donegild,  and  no  mo'. 

The  kinge's  mother,  full  of  tyranny? 

Her  thought  her  cursed  heart  would  burst  in  two; 

She  would  not  that  her  son  had  done  so; 

Her  thought  it  a  despite  that  he  should  take 

So  strange  a  creature  unto  his  make.* 


mate,  consort 


Me  list  not  of  the  chaff  nor  of  the  stre* 
Make  so  long  a  tale,  as  of  the  corn. 


straw 


162 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


What  should  I  tellen  of  the  royalty 

Of  this  marriage,  or  which  course  goes  beforn, 

Who  bloweth  in  a  trump  or  in  an  horn? 

The  fruit  of  every  tale  is  for  to  say; 

They  eat  and  drink,  and  dance,  and  sing,  and  play. 

They  go  to  bed,  as  it  was  skill*  and  right;  *reasonable 

For  though  that  wives  be  full  holy  things. 

They  muste  take  in  patience  at  night 

Such  manner*  necessaries  as  be  pleasings  *kind  of 

To  folk  that  have  y-wedded  them  with  rings. 

And  lay  *a  lite*  their  holiness  aside  *a  little  oP 

As  for  the  time,  it  may  no  better  betide. 


On  her  he  got  a  knave*  child  anon. 

And  to  a  Bishop  and  to  his  Constable  eke 

He  took  his  wife  to  keep,  when  he  is  gone 

To  Scotland-ward,  his  foemen  for  to  seek. 

Now  fair  Constance,  that  is  so  humble  and  meek. 

So  long  is  gone  with  childe  till  that  still 

She  held  her  chamb'r,  abiding  Christe's  will 


*male  <14> 


The  time  is  come,  a  knave  child  she  bare; 

Mauricius  at  the  font-stone  they  him  call. 

This  Constable  *doth  forth  come*  a  messenger. 

And  wrote  unto  his  king  that  clep'd  was  All', 

How  that  this  blissful  tiding  is  befall. 

And  other  tidings  speedful  for  to  say 

He*  hath  the  letter,  and  forth  he  go'th  his  way. 


*caused  to  come  forth* 


*i.e.  the  messenger 


This  messenger,  to  *do  his  avantage,* 
Unto  the  kinge's  mother  rideth  swithe,* 
And  saluteth  her  full  fair  in  his  language. 
"Madame,"  quoth  he,  "ye  maybe  glad  and  blithe. 


promote  his  own  interest* 
*swiftly 


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And  thanke  God  an  hundred  thousand  sithe;* 
My  lady  queen  hath  child,  withoute  doubt. 
To  joy  and  bliss  of  all  this  realm  about. 


163 


times 


"Lo,  here  the  letter  sealed  of  this  thing. 
That  I  must  bear  with  all  the  haste  I  may: 
If  ye  will  aught  unto  your  son  the  king, 
I  am  your  servant  both  by  night  and  day." 
Donegild  answer 'd,  "As  now  at  this  time,  nay; 
But  here  I  will  all  night  thou  take  thy  rest. 
To-morrow  will  I  say  thee  what  me  lest.*" 

This  messenger  drank  sadly*  ale  and  wine. 
And  stolen  were  his  letters  privily 
Out  of  his  box,  while  he  slept  as  a  swine; 
And  counterfeited  was  full  subtilly 
Another  letter,  wrote  full  sinfully. 
Unto  the  king,  direct  of  this  mattere 
From  his  Constable,  as  ye  shall  after  hear. 


*pleases 
*steadily 


This  letter  said,  the  queen  deliver'd  was 
Of  so  horrible  a  fiendlike  creature. 
That  in  the  castle  none  so  hardy*  was 
That  any  while  he  durst  therein  endure: 
The  mother  was  an  elf  by  aventure 
Become,  by  charmes  or  by  sorcery. 
And  every  man  hated  her  company. 


*brave 


Woe  was  this  king  when  he  this  letter  had  seen. 

But  to  no  wight  he  told  his  sorrows  sore. 

But  with  his  owen  hand  he  wrote  again, 

"Welcome  the  sond*  of  Christ  for  evermore  *will,  sending 

To  me,  that  am  now  learned  in  this  lore: 

Lord,  welcome  be  thy  lust*  and  thy  pleasance,  *will,  pleasure 


164 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


My  lust  I  put  all  in  thine  ordinance. 


"Keepe*  this  child,  albeit  foul  or  fair, 
And  eke  my  wife,  unto  mine  homecoming: 
Christ  when  him  list  may  send  to  me  an  heir 
More  agreeable  than  this  to  my  liking." 
This  letter  he  sealed,  privily  weeping. 
Which  to  the  messenger  was  taken  soon. 
And  forth  he  went,  there  is  no  more  to  do'n.* 


preserve 


*do 


O  messenger  full  fill'd  of  drunkenness. 
Strong  is  thy  breath,  thy  limbes  falter  aye. 
And  thou  betrayest  alle  secretness; 
Thy  mind  is  lorn,*  thou  janglest  as  a  jay; 
Thy  face  is  turned  in  a  new  array;* 
Where  drunkenness  reigneth  in  any  rout,* 
There  is  no  counsel  hid,  withoute  doubt. 


*lost 
*aspect 

*company 


O  Donegild,  I  have  no  English  dign* 
Unto  thy  malice,  and  thy  tyranny: 
And  therefore  to  the  fiend  I  thee  resign. 
Let  him  indite  of  all  thy  treachery 
Ty,  mannish,*  fy!  O  nay,  by  God  I  lie; 
Fy,  fiendlike  spirit!  for  I  dare  well  tell. 
Though  thou  here  walk,  thy  spirit  is  in  hell. 


*worthy 


*unwomanly  woman 


This  messenger  came  from  the  king  again. 
And  at  the  kinge's  mother's  court  he  light,* 
And  she  was  of  this  messenger  full  fain,* 
And  pleased  him  in  all  that  e'er  she  might. 
He  drank,  and  *well  his  girdle  underpight*; 
He  slept,  and  eke  he  snored  in  his  guise 
All  night,  until  the  sun  began  to  rise. 


*alighted 
*glad 

*stowed  away  (liquor) 
under  his  girdle* 


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Eft*  were  his  letters  stolen  every  one. 
And  counterfeited  letters  in  this  wise: 
The  king  commanded  his  Constable  anon. 
On  pain  of  hanging  and  of  high  jewise,* 
That  he  should  suffer  in  no  manner  wise 
Constance  within  his  regne*  for  to  abide 
Three  dayes,  and  a  quarter  of  a  tide; 

But  in  the  same  ship  as  he  her  fand. 
Her  and  her  younge  son,  and  all  her  gear. 
He  shoulde  put,  and  crowd*  her  from  the  land. 
And  charge  her,  that  she  never  eft  come  there. 
O  my  Constance,  well  may  thy  ghost*  have  fear. 
And  sleeping  in  thy  dream  be  in  penance,* 


165 


again 

*judgement 
*kingdom 


When  Donegild  cast*  all  this  ordinance.^ 


*push 

*spirit 
*pain,  trouble 
*contrived  **plan,  plot 


This  messenger,  on  morrow  when  he  woke. 

Unto  the  castle  held  the  nexte*  way. 

And  to  the  constable  the  letter  took; 

And  when  he  this  dispiteous*  letter  sey,** 

Full  oft  he  said,  "Alas,  and  well-away! 

Lord  Christ,"  quoth  he,  "how  may  this  world  endure? 

So  full  of  sin  is  many  a  creature. 


nearest 


cruel ' 


"O  mighty  God,  if  that  it  be  thy  will. 
Since  thou  art  rightful  judge,  how  may  it  be 
That  thou  wilt  suffer  innocence  to  spill,* 
And  wicked  folk  reign  in  prosperity? 
Ah!  good  Constance,  alas!  so  woe  is  me. 
That  I  must  be  thy  tormentor,  or  dey* 
A  shameful  death,  there  is  no  other  way. 

Wept  bothe  young  and  old  in  all  that  place. 
When  that  the  king  this  cursed  letter  sent; 


*be  destroyed 


*die 


166 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  Constance,  with  a  deadly  pale  face, 
The  fourthe  day  toward  her  ship  she  went. 
But  natheless  she  took  in  good  intent 
The  will  of  Christ,  and  kneeling  on  the  strond* 
She  saide,  "Lord,  aye  welcome  be  thy  sond* 


*strand,  shore 
^whatever  thou  sendest 


"He  that  me  kepte  from  the  false  blame. 

While  I  was  in  the  land  amonges  you. 

He  can  me  keep  from  harm  and  eke  from  shame 

In  the  salt  sea,  although  I  see  not  how 

As  strong  as  ever  he  was,  he  is  yet  now. 

In  him  trust  I,  and  in  his  mother  dere. 

That  is  to  me  my  sail  and  eke  my  stere."* 


*rudder,  guide 


Her  little  child  lay  weeping  in  her  arm 
And,  kneeling,  piteously  to  him  she  said 
"Peace,  little  son,  I  will  do  thee  no  harm:" 
With  that  her  kerchief  off  her  head  she  braid,* 
And  over  his  little  eyen  she  it  laid. 
And  in  her  arm  she  lulled  it  full  fast. 
And  unto  heav'n  her  eyen  up  she  cast. 


*took,  drew 


"Mother,"  quoth  she,  "and  maiden  bright,  Mary, 
Sooth  is,  that  through  a  woman's  eggement* 
Mankind  was  lorn,*  and  damned  aye  to  die; 
For  which  thy  child  was  on  a  cross  y-rent:* 
Thy  blissful  eyen  saw  all  his  torment. 
Then  is  there  no  comparison  between 
Thy  woe,  and  any  woe  man  may  sustene. 


incitement,  egging  on 
*lost 
*torn,  pierced 


"Thou  saw'st  thy  child  y-slain  before  thine  eyen. 

And  yet  now  lives  my  little  child,  parfay:*  *by  my  faith 

Now,  lady  bright,  to  whom  the  woeful  cryen. 

Thou  glory  of  womanhood,  thou  faire  may,*  *maid 


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Thou  haven  of  refuge,  bright  star  of  day. 

Rue*  on  my  child,  that  of  thy  gentleness  *take  pity 

Ruest  on  every  rueful*  in  distress.  *sorrowful  person 


167 


"O  little  child,  alas!  what  is  thy  guilt. 
That  never  wroughtest  sin  as  yet,  pardie?* 
Why  will  thine  harde*  father  have  thee  spilt?** 
O  mercy,  deare  Constable,"  quoth  she, 
"And  let  my  little  child  here  dwell  with  thee: 
And  if  thou  dar'st  not  save  him  from  blame. 
So  kiss  him  ones  in  his  father's  name." 


*par  Dieu;  by  God 
*cruel  **destroyed 


Therewith  she  looked  backward  to  the  land. 
And  saide,  "Farewell,  husband  rutheless!" 
And  up  she  rose,  and  walked  down  the  strand 
Toward  the  ship,  her  following  all  the  press:* 
And  ever  she  pray'd  her  child  to  hold  his  peace. 
And  took  her  leave,  and  with  an  holy  intent 
She  blessed  her,  and  to  the  ship  she  went. 


*multitude 


Victualed  was  the  ship,  it  is  no  drede,*  *doubt 

Abundantly  for  her  a  full  long  space: 

And  other  necessaries  that  should  need*  *be  needed 

She  had  enough,  heried*  be  Godde's  grace:  *praised  <  15  > 

For  wind  and  weather.  Almighty  God  purchase,*  *provide 

And  bring  her  home;  I  can  no  better  say; 

But  in  the  sea  she  drived  forth  her  way. 


Alia  the  king  came  home  soon  after  this 
Unto  the  castle,  of  the  which  I  told. 
And  asked  where  his  wife  and  his  child  is; 
The  Constable  gan  about  his  heart  feel  cold. 
And  plainly  all  the  matter  he  him  told 
As  ye  have  heard;  I  can  tell  it  no  better; 


168 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  shew'd  the  king  his  seal,  and  eke  his  letter 


And  saide;  "Lord,  as  ye  commanded  me 
On  pain  of  death,  so  have  I  done  certain." 
The  messenger  tormented*  was,  till  he 
Muste  beknow,*  and  tell  it  flat  and  plain. 
From  night  to  night  in  what  place  he  had  lain; 
And  thus,  by  wit  and  subtle  inquiring, 
Imagin'd  was  by  whom  this  harm  gan  spring. 


*tortured 
*confess  <16> 


The  hand  was  known  that  had  the  letter  wrote. 
And  all  the  venom  of  the  cursed  deed; 
But  in  what  wise,  certainly  I  know  not. 
Th'  effect  is  this,  that  Alia,  *out  of  drede,* 
His  mother  slew,  that  may  men  plainly  read. 
For  that  she  traitor  was  to  her  liegeance:* 
Thus  ended  olde  Donegild  with  mischance. 


Vithout  doubt* 


*allegiance 


The  sorrow  that  this  Alia  night  and  day 
Made  for  his  wife,  and  for  his  child  also. 
There  is  no  tongue  that  it  telle  may. 
But  now  will  I  again  to  Constance  go. 
That  floated  in  the  sea  in  pain  and  woe 
Five  year  and  more,  as  liked  Christe's  sond,* 
Ere  that  her  ship  approached  to  the  lond.* 


*decree,  command 
*land 


Under  an  heathen  castle,  at  the  last. 
Of  which  the  name  in  my  text  I  not  fmd, 
Constance  and  eke  her  child  the  sea  upcast. 
Almighty  God,  that  saved  all  mankind. 
Have  on  Constance  and  on  her  child  some  mind. 
That  fallen  is  in  heathen  hand  eftsoon*  *again 

*In  point  to  spill,*  as  I  shall  tell  you  soon!  *in  danger  of 

perishing* 


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Down  from  the  castle  came  there  many  a  wight 

To  gauren*  on  this  ship,  and  on  Constance:  *gaze,  stare 

But  shortly  from  the  castle,  on  a  night. 

The  lorde's  steward,  —  God  give  him  mischance,  — 

A  thief  that  had  *renied  our  creance,*  *denied  our  faith* 

Came  to  the  ship  alone,  and  said  he  would 

Her  leman*  be,  whether  she  would  or  n'ould.  *illicit  lover 


169 


Woe  was  this  wretched  woman  then  begone; 

Her  child  cri'd,  and  she  cried  piteously: 

But  blissful  Mary  help'd  her  right  anon. 

For,  with  her  struggling  well  and  mightily. 

The  thief  fell  overboard  all  suddenly. 

And  in  the  sea  he  drenched*  for  vengeance. 

And  thus  hath  Christ  unwemmed*  kept  Constance. 


*drowned 

*unblemished 


O  foul  lust  of  luxury!  lo  thine  end! 

Not  only  that  thou  faintest*  manne's  mind. 

But  verily  thou  wilt  his  body  shend.* 

Th'  end  of  thy  work,  or  of  thy  lustes  blind. 

Is  complaining:  how  many  may  men  fmd. 

That  not  for  work,  sometimes,  but  for  th'  intent 

To  do  this  sin,  be  either  slain  or  shent? 


*weakenest 
*destroy 


How  may  this  weake  woman  have  the  strength 
Her  to  defend  against  this  renegate? 
O  Goliath,  unmeasurable  of  length. 
How  mighte  David  make  thee  so  mate?* 
So  young,  and  of  armour  so  desolate,* 
How  durst  he  look  upon  thy  dreadful  face? 
Well  may  men  see  it  was  but  Godde's  grace. 


*overthrown 
*devoid 


Who  gave  Judith  courage  or  hardiness 
To  slay  him,  Holofernes,  in  his  tent. 


170 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  to  deliver  out  of  wretchedness 
The  people  of  God?  I  say  for  this  intent 
That  right  as  God  spirit  of  vigour  sent 
To  them,  and  saved  them  out  of  mischance, 
So  sent  he  might  and  vigour  to  Constance. 

Forth  went  her  ship  throughout  the  narrow  mouth 

Of  *Jubaltare  and  Septe,*  driving  alway,  *Gibraltar  and  Ceuta* 

Sometime  west,  and  sometime  north  and  south. 

And  sometime  east,  full  many  a  weary  day: 

Till  Christe's  mother  (blessed  be  she  aye) 

Had  shaped*  through  her  endeless  goodness  *resolved,  arranged 

To  make  an  end  of  all  her  heaviness. 


Now  let  us  stint*  of  Constance  but  a  throw,** 

And  speak  we  of  the  Roman  emperor. 

That  out  of  Syria  had  by  letters  know 

The  slaughter  of  Christian  folk,  and  dishonor 

Done  to  his  daughter  by  a  false  traitor, 

I  mean  the  cursed  wicked  Soudaness, 

That  at  the  feast  *let  slay  both  more  and  less.* 

and  low  to  be  killed^ 
For  which  this  emperor  had  sent  anon 
His  senator,  with  royal  ordinance. 
And  other  lordes,  God  wot,  many  a  one. 
On  Syrians  to  take  high  vengeance: 
They  burn  and  slay,  and  bring  them  to  mischance 
Full  many  a  day:  but  shortly  this  is  th'  end. 
Homeward  to  Rome  they  shaped  them  to  wend. 


^cease  speaking 
**short  time 


caused  both  high 


This  senator  repaired  with  victory 
To  Rome-ward,  sailing  full  royally. 
And  met  the  ship  driving,  as  saith  the  story. 
In  which  Constance  sat  full  piteously: 


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And  nothing  knew  he  what  she  was,  nor  why 

She  was  in  such  array;  nor  she  will  say 

Of  her  estate,  although  that  she  should  dey*  *die 


171 


He  brought  her  unto  Rome,  and  to  his  wife 
He  gave  her,  and  her  younge  son  also: 
And  with  the  senator  she  led  her  life. 
Thus  can  our  Lady  bringen  out  of  woe 
Woeful  Constance,  and  many  another  mo': 
And  longe  time  she  dwelled  in  that  place. 
In  holy  works  ever,  as  was  her  grace. 

The  senatores  wife  her  aunte  was. 

But  for  all  that  she  knew  her  ne'er  the  more: 

I  will  no  longer  tarry  in  this  case. 

But  to  King  Alia,  whom  I  spake  of  yore. 

That  for  his  wife  wept  and  sighed  sore, 

I  will  return,  and  leave  I  will  Constance 

Under  the  senatores  governance. 

King  Alia,  which  that  had  his  mother  slain. 

Upon  a  day  fell  in  such  repentance; 

That,  if  I  shortly  tell  it  shall  and  plain. 

To  Rome  he  came  to  receive  his  penitance. 

And  put  him  in  the  Pope's  ordinance 

In  high  and  low,  and  Jesus  Christ  besought 

Forgive  his  wicked  works  that  he  had  wrought. 


The  fame  anon  throughout  the  town  is  borne. 

How  Alia  king  shall  come  on  pilgrimage. 

By  harbingers  that  wente  him  beforn. 

For  which  the  senator,  as  was  usage. 

Rode  *him  again,*  and  many  of  his  lineage. 

As  well  to  show  his  high  magnificence. 


*to  meet  him* 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 

As  to  do  any  king  a  reverence. 

Great  cheere*  did  this  noble  senator  *courtesy 

To  King  Alia  and  he  to  him  also; 

Each  of  them  did  the  other  great  honor; 

And  so  befell,  that  in  a  day  or  two 

This  senator  did  to  King  Alia  go 

To  feast,  and  shortly,  if  I  shall  not  lie, 

Constance  s  son  went  in  his  company 

Some  men  would  say,<17>  at  request  of  Constance 

This  senator  had  led  this  child  to  feast: 

I  may  not  tellen  every  circumstance. 

Be  as  be  may,  there  was  he  at  the  least: 

But  sooth  is  this,  that  at  his  mother's  best*  *behest 

Before  Alia  during  *the  meates  space,*  *meal  time* 

The  child  stood,  looking  in  the  kinges  face. 

This  Alia  king  had  of  this  child  great  wonder. 

And  to  the  senator  he  said  anon, 

"Whose  is  that  faire  child  that  standeth  yonder?" 

"I  n'ot,"*  quoth  he,  "by  God  and  by  Saint  John;  *know  not 

A  mother  he  hath,  but  father  hath  he  none. 


That  I  of  wot:"  and  shortly  in  a  stound* 
He  told  to  Alia  how  this  child  was  found. 


*short  time  <18> 


"But  God  wot,"  quoth  this  senator  also, 

"So  virtuous  a  liver  in  all  my  life 

I  never  saw,  as  she,  nor  heard  of  mo' 

Of  worldly  woman,  maiden,  widow  or  wife: 

I  dare  well  say  she  hadde  lever*  a  knife 

Throughout  her  breast,  than  be  a  woman  wick',* 

There  is  no  man  could  bring  her  to  that  prick.* 


*rather 

*wicked 
*point 


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Now  was  this  child  as  like  unto  Constance 

As  possible  is  a  creature  to  be: 

This  Alia  had  the  face  in  remembrance 

Of  Dame  Constance,  and  thereon  mused  he. 

If  that  the  childe's  mother  *were  aught  she* 

That  was  his  wife;  and  privily  he  sight,* 

And  sped  him  from  the  table  *that  he  might.* 


173 


*could  be  she* 
*sighed 
*as  fast  as  he  could* 


"Parfay,"*  thought  he,  "phantom**  is  in  mine  head. 

I  ought  to  deem,  of  skilful  judgement. 

That  in  the  salte  sea  my  wife  is  dead." 

And  afterward  he  made  his  argument, 

"What  wot  I,  if  that  Christ  have  hither  sent 

My  wife  by  sea,  as  well  as  he  her  sent 

To  my  country,  from  thennes  that  she  went?" 


*by  my  faith 
*a  fantasy 


And,  after  noon,  home  with  the  senator. 

Went  Alia,  for  to  see  this  wondrous  chance. 

This  senator  did  Alia  great  honor. 

And  hastily  he  sent  after  Constance: 

But  truste  well,  her  liste  not  to  dance. 

When  that  she  wiste  wherefore  was  that  sond,* 

Unneth*  upon  her  feet  she  mighte  stand. 


summons 
*with  difficulty 


When  Alia  saw  his  wife,  fair  he  her  gret,* 

And  wept,  that  it  was  ruthe  for  to  see. 

For  at  the  firste  look  he  on  her  set 

He  knew  well  verily  that  it  was  she: 

And  she,  for  sorrow,  as  dumb  stood  as  a  tree: 

So  was  her  hearte  shut  in  her  distress. 

When  she  remember 'd  his  unkindeness. 


*greeted 


Twice  she  swooned  in  his  owen  sight. 
He  wept  and  him  excused  piteously: 


174 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"Now  God,"  quoth  he,  "and  all  his  hallows  bright*  *saints 

So  wisly*  on  my  soule  have  mercy,  *surely 

That  of  your  harm  as  guilteless  am  I, 

As  is  Maurice  my  son,  so  like  your  face. 

Else  may  the  fiend  me  fetch  out  of  this  place." 

Long  was  the  sobbing  and  the  bitter  pain. 

Ere  that  their  woeful  heartes  mighte  cease; 

Great  was  the  pity  for  to  hear  them  plain,*  *lament 

Through  whiche  plaintes  gan  their  woe  increase. 

I  pray  you  all  my  labour  to  release, 

I  may  not  tell  all  their  woe  till  to-morrow, 

I  am  so  weary  for  to  speak  of  sorrow. 

But  finally,  when  that  the  *sooth  is  wist,*  *truth  is  known* 

That  Alia  guiltless  was  of  all  her  woe, 

I  trow  an  hundred  times  have  they  kiss'd. 

And  such  a  bliss  is  there  betwixt  them  two. 

That,  save  the  joy  that  lasteth  evermo'. 

There  is  none  like,  that  any  creature 

Hath  seen,  or  shall  see,  while  the  world  may  dure. 

Then  prayed  she  her  husband  meekely 

In  the  relief  of  her  long  piteous  pine,*  *sorrow 

That  he  would  pray  her  father  specially. 

That  of  his  majesty  he  would  incline 

To  vouchesafe  some  day  with  him  to  dine: 

She  pray'd  him  eke,  that  he  should  by  no  way 

Unto  her  father  no  word  of  her  say. 

Some  men  would  say,<17>  how  that  the  child  Maurice 
Did  this  message  unto  the  emperor: 

But,  as  I  guess.  Alia  was  not  so  nice,*  *foolish 

To  him  that  is  so  sovereign  of  honor 


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As  he  that  is  of  Christian  folk  the  flow'r. 
Send  any  child,  but  better  'tis  to  deem 
He  went  himself;  and  so  it  may  well  seem. 

This  emperor  hath  granted  gentilly 

To  come  to  dinner,  as  he  him  besought: 

And  well  rede*  I,  he  looked  busily 

Upon  this  child,  and  on  his  daughter  thought. 

Alia  went  to  his  inn,  and  as  him  ought 

Arrayed*  for  this  feast  in  every  wise, 

*As  farforth  as  his  cunning*  may  suffice. 


175 


*guess,  know 


*prepared 
as  far  as  his  skill* 


The  morrow  came,  and  Alia  gan  him  dress,*  *make  ready 

And  eke  his  wife,  the  emperor  to  meet: 

And  forth  they  rode  in  joy  and  in  gladness. 

And  when  she  saw  her  father  in  the  street. 

She  lighted  down  and  fell  before  his  feet. 

"Father,"  quoth  she,  "your  younge  child  Constance 

Is  now  full  clean  out  of  your  remembrance. 

"I  am  your  daughter,  your  Constance,"  quoth  she, 

"That  whilom  ye  have  sent  into  Syrie; 

It  am  I,  father,  that  in  the  salt  sea 

Was  put  alone,  and  damned*  for  to  die.  *condemned 

Now,  goode  father,  I  you  mercy  cry. 

Send  me  no  more  into  none  heatheness. 

But  thank  my  lord  here  of  his  kindeness." 

Who  can  the  piteous  joye  tellen  all. 

Betwixt  them  three,  since  they  be  thus  y-met? 

But  of  my  tale  make  an  end  I  shall. 

The  day  goes  fast,  I  will  no  longer  let.*  *hinder 

These  gladde  folk  to  dinner  be  y-set; 

In  joy  and  bliss  at  meat  I  let  them  dwell. 


176 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


A  thousand  fold  well  more  than  I  can  tell. 


This  child  Maurice  was  since  then  emperor 

Made  by  the  Pope,  and  lived  Christianly, 

To  Christe's  Churche  did  he  great  honor: 

But  I  let  all  his  story  passe  by, 

Of  Constance  is  my  tale  especially. 

In  the  olde  Roman  gestes*  men  may  fmd 

Maurice's  life,  I  bear  it  not  in  mind. 


*histories<19> 


This  King  Alia,  when  he  his  time  sey,* 
With  his  Constance,  his  holy  wife  so  sweet. 
To  England  are  they  come  the  righte  way. 
Where  they  did  live  in  joy  and  in  quiet. 
But  little  while  it  lasted,  I  you  hete,* 
Joy  of  this  world  for  time  will  not  abide. 
From  day  to  night  it  changeth  as  the  tide. 


promise 


Who  liv'd  ever  in  such  delight  one  day. 
That  him  not  moved  either  conscience. 
Or  ire,  or  talent,  or  *some  kind  affray* 
Envy,  or  pride,  or  passion,  or  offence? 
I  say  but  for  this  ende  this  sentence,* 
That  little  while  in  joy  or  in  pleasance 
Lasted  the  bliss  of  Alia  with  Constance. 


*some  kind  of  disturbance* 


*judgment,  opinion* 


For  death,  that  takes  of  high  and  low  his  rent. 
When  passed  was  a  year,  even  as  I  guess. 
Out  of  this  world  this  King  Alia  he  hent,* 
For  whom  Constance  had  full  great  heaviness. 
Now  let  us  pray  that  God  his  soule  bless: 
And  Dame  Constance,  fmally  to  say. 
Toward  the  town  of  Rome  went  her  way. 


*snatched 


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To  Rome  is  come  this  holy  creature. 

And  fmdeth  there  her  friendes  whole  and  sound: 

Now  is  she  scaped  all  her  aventure: 

And  when  that  she  her  father  hath  y- found, 

Down  on  her  knees  falleth  she  to  ground. 

Weeping  for  tenderness  in  hearte  blithe 

She  herieth*  God  an  hundred  thousand  sithe.**  *praises  **times 


In  virtue  and  in  holy  almes-deed 

They  liven  all,  and  ne'er  asunder  wend; 

Till  death  departeth  them,  this  life  they  lead: 

And  fare  now  well,  my  tale  is  at  an  end 

Now  Jesus  Christ,  that  of  his  might  may  send 

Joy  after  woe,  govern  us  in  his  grace 

And  keep  us  alle  that  be  in  this  place. 


178 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


^^^G0(/(S^aMWe. 


The  Prologue. 


Experience,  though  none  authority* 

Were  in  this  world,  is  right  enough  for  me 

To  speak  of  woe  that  is  in  marriage: 

For,  lordings,  since  I  twelve  year  was  of  age, 

(Thanked  be  God  that  *is  etern  on  live),* 

Husbands  at  the  church  door  have  I  had  five,  < 2 

For  I  so  often  have  y-wedded  be. 

And  all  were  worthy  men  in  their  degree. 

But  me  was  told,  not  longe  time  gone  is 

That  sithen*  Christe  went  never  but  ones 

To  wedding,  in  the  Cane*  of  Galilee, 

That  by  that  ilk*  example  taught  he  me. 

That  I  not  wedded  shoulde  be  but  once. 

Lo,  hearken  eke  a  sharp  word  for  the  nonce,* 

Beside  a  wellejesus,  God  and  man. 

Spake  in  reproof  of  the  Samaritan: 

"Thou  hast  y-had  five  husbandes,"  said  he; 

"And  thilke*  man,  that  now  hath  wedded  thee. 

Is  not  thine  husband:"  <3>  thus  said  he  certain; 

What  that  he  meant  thereby,  I  cannot  sayn. 

But  that  I  aske,  why  the  fifthe  man 

Was  not  husband  to  the  Samaritan? 


*authoritative  texts 


*lives  eternally* 


since 
*Cana 
*same 


*that 


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179 


.  my  life* 


comment 


How  many  might  she  have  in  marriage? 

Yet  heard  I  never  tellen  *in  mine  age* 

Upon  this  number  definitioun. 

Men  may  divine,  and  glosen*  up  and  down; 

But  well  I  wot,  express  without  a  lie, 

God  bade  us  for  to  wax  and  multiply; 

That  gentle  text  can  I  well  understand. 

Eke  well  I  wot,  he  said,  that  mine  husband 

Should  leave  father  and  mother,  and  take  to  me; 

But  of  no  number  mention  made  he. 

Of  bigamy  or  of  octogamy; 

Why  then  should  men  speak  of  it  villainy?*     *as  if  it  were  a  disgrace 

Lo  here,  the  wise  king  Dan*  Solomon,  *Lord  <4> 

I  trow  that  he  had  wives  more  than  one; 

As  would  to  God  it  lawful  were  to  me 

To  be  refreshed  half  so  oft  as  he! 

What  gift*  of  God  had  he  for  all  his  wives?      *special  favour,  licence 

No  man  hath  such,  that  in  this  world  alive  is. 

God  wot,  this  noble  king,  *as  to  my  wit,* 

The  first  night  had  many  a  merry  fit 

With  each  of  them,  so  *well  was  him  on  live.* 

Blessed  be  God  that  I  have  wedded  five! 

Welcome  the  sixth  whenever  that  he  shall. 

For  since  I  will  not  keep  me  chaste  in  all. 

When  mine  husband  is  from  the  world  y-gone. 

Some  Christian  man  shall  wedde  me  anon. 

For  then  th'  apostle  saith  that  I  am  free 

To  wed,  *a'  God's  half,*  where  it  liketh  me. 

He  saith,  that  to  be  wedded  is  no  sin; 

Better  is  to  be  wedded  than  to  brin.* 

What  recketh*  me  though  folk  say  villainy** 

Of  shrewed*  Lamech,  and  his  bigamy? 

I  wot  well  Abraham  was  a  holy  man. 


*as  I  understand* 


*so  well  he  lived* 


*on  God's  part* 

*burn 
*care  **evil 
*impious,  wicked 


180 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  Jacob  eke,  as  far  as  ev'r  I  can.* 

And  each  of  them  had  wives  more  than  two; 

And  many  another  holy  man  also. 

Where  can  ye  see,  *in  any  manner  age,* 

That  highe  God  defended*  marriage 

By  word  express?  I  pray  you  tell  it  me; 

Or  where  commanded  he  virginity? 

I  wot  as  well  as  you,  it  is  no  dread,* 

Th'  apostle,  when  he  spake  of  maidenhead. 

He  said,  that  precept  thereof  had  he  none: 

Men  may  counsel  a  woman  to  be  one,* 

But  counseling  is  no  commandement; 

He  put  it  in  our  owen  judgement. 

For,  hadde  God  commanded  maidenhead. 

Then  had  he  damned*  wedding  out  of  dread: 

And  certes,  if  there  were  no  seed  y-sow,* 

Virginity  then  whereof  should  it  grow? 

Paul  durste  not  commanden,  at  the  least, 

A  thing  of  which  his  Master  gave  no  best.* 

The  dart*  is  set  up  for  virginity; 

Catch  whoso  may,  who  runneth  best  let  see. 

But  this  word  is  not  ta'en  of  every  wight, 

*But  there  as*  God  will  give  it  of  his  might. 

I  wot  well  that  th'  apostle  was  a  maid. 

But  natheless,  although  he  wrote  and  said. 

He  would  that  every  wight  were  such  as  he. 

All  is  but  counsel  to  virginity. 

And,  since  to  be  a  wife  he  gave  me  leave 

Of  indulgence,  so  is  it  no  repreve* 

To  wedde  me,  if  that  my  make*  should  die. 

Without  exception*  of  bigamy; 

*A11  were  it*  good  no  woman  for  to  touch 

(He  meant  as  in  his  bed  or  in  his  couch). 

For  peril  is  both  fire  and  tow  t'assemble 


*knov 


*in  any  period* 
*forbade  <5> 


*doubt 


*a  maid 

**  *condemned  **doubt 

*sown 

*command 
*goal  <6> 

*except  where* 


*scandal,  reproach 

*mate,  husband 
*charge,  reproach 
*though  it  might  be* 


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Ye  know  what  this  example  may  resemble. 
This  is  all  and  some,  he  held  virginity 
More  profit  than  wedding  in  frailty: 
(*Frailty  clepe  I,  but  if  that  he  and  she 
Would  lead  their  lives  all  in  chastity), 
I  grant  it  well,  I  have  of  none  envy 
Who  maidenhead  prefer  to  bigamy; 
It  liketh  them  t'  be  clean  in  body  and  ghost;* 
Of  mine  estate*  I  will  not  make  a  boast. 


frailty  I  call  it, 
unless* 


*soul 
*condition 


181 


For,  well  ye  know,  a  lord  in  his  household 

Hath  not  every  vessel  all  of  gold;  <7> 

Some  are  of  tree,  and  do  their  lord  service. 

God  calleth  folk  to  him  in  sundry  wise. 

And  each  one  hath  of  God  a  proper  gift. 

Some  this,  some  that,  as  liketh  him  to  shift.*       *appoint,  distribute 

Virginity  is  great  perfection. 

And  continence  eke  with  devotion: 

But  Christ,  that  of  perfection  is  the  well,*  *fountain 

Bade  not  every  wight  he  should  go  sell 

All  that  he  had,  and  give  it  to  the  poor. 

And  in  such  wise  follow  him  and  his  lore:*  *doctrine 

He  spake  to  them  that  would  live  perfectly,  — 

And,  lordings,  by  your  leave,  that  am  not  I; 

I  will  bestow  the  flower  of  mine  age 

In  th'  acts  and  in  the  fruits  of  marriage. 

Tell  me  also,  to  what  conclusion*  *end,  purpose 

Were  members  made  of  generation. 

And  of  so  perfect  wise  a  wight*  y-wrought?  *being 

Trust  me  right  well,  they  were  not  made  for  nought. 

Glose  whoso  will,  and  say  both  up  and  down. 

That  they  were  made  for  the  purgatioun 

Of  urine,  and  of  other  thinges  smale. 

And  eke  to  know  a  female  from  a  male: 


182 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  for  none  other  cause?  say  ye  no? 

Experience  wot  well  it  is  not  so. 

So  that  the  clerkes*  be  not  with  me  wroth,  *scholars 

I  say  this,  that  they  were  made  for  both. 

That  is  to  say,  *for  office,  and  for  ease*  *for  duty  and 

Of  engendrure,  there  we  God  not  displease.  for  pleasure* 

Why  should  men  elles  in  their  bookes  set. 

That  man  shall  yield  unto  his  wife  her  debt? 

Now  wherewith  should  he  make  his  payement. 

If  he  us'd  not  his  silly  instrument? 

Then  were  they  made  upon  a  creature 

To  purge  urine,  and  eke  for  engendrure. 

But  I  say  not  that  every  wight  is  hold,*  *obliged 

That  hath  such  harness*  as  I  to  you  told,  *equipment 

To  go  and  use  them  in  engendrure; 

Then  should  men  take  of  chastity  no  cure.*  *care 

Christ  was  a  maid,  and  shapen*  as  a  man,  *fashioned 

And  many  a  saint,  since  that  this  world  began. 

Yet  ever  liv'd  in  perfect  chastity. 

I  will  not  vie*  with  no  virginity.  *contend 

Let  them  with  bread  of  pured*  wheat  be  fed,  *purified 

And  let  us  wives  eat  our  barley  bread. 

And  yet  with  barley  bread,  Mark  tell  us  can,<  8  > 

Our  Lord  Jesus  refreshed  many  a  man. 

In  such  estate  as  God  hath  *cleped  us,*  *called  us  to 

I'll  persevere,  I  am  not  precious,*  *over-dainty 

In  wifehood  I  will  use  mine  instrument 

As  freely  as  my  Maker  hath  it  sent. 

If  I  be  dangerous*  God  give  me  sorrow;  *sparing  of  my  favours 

Mine  husband  shall  it  have,  both  eve  and  morrow. 

When  that  him  list  come  forth  and  pay  his  debt. 

A  husband  will  I  have,  I  *will  no  let,*         *will  bear  no  hindrance* 

Which  shall  be  both  my  debtor  and  my  thrall,*  *slave 

And  have  his  tribulation  withal 


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Upon  his  flesh,  while  that  I  am  his  wife. 

I  have  the  power  during  all  my  life 

Upon  his  proper  body,  and  not  he; 

Right  thus  th'  apostle  told  it  unto  me. 

And  bade  our  husbands  for  to  love  us  well; 

All  this  sentence  me  liketh  every  deal.*  *whit 


183 


Up  start  the  Pardoner,  and  that  anon; 

"Now,  Dame,"  quoth  he,  "by  God  and  by  Saint  John, 

Ye  are  a  noble  preacher  in  this  case. 

I  was  about  to  wed  a  wife,  alas! 

What?  should  I  bie*  it  on  my  flesh  so  dear? 

Yet  had  I  lever*  wed  no  wife  this  year." 

"Abide,"*  quoth  she;  "my  tale  is  not  begun 

Nay,  thou  shalt  drinken  of  another  tun 

Ere  that  I  go,  shall  savour  worse  than  ale. 

And  when  that  I  have  told  thee  forth  my  tale 

Of  tribulation  in  marriage. 

Of  which  I  am  expert  in  all  mine  age, 

(This  is  to  say,  myself  hath  been  the  whip). 

Then  mayest  thou  choose  whether  thou  wilt  sip 

Of  *thilke  tunne,*  that  I  now  shall  broach. 

Beware  of  it,  ere  thou  too  nigh  approach. 

For  I  shall  tell  examples  more  than  ten: 

Whoso  will  not  beware  by  other  men. 

By  him  shall  other  men  corrected  be: 

These  same  wordes  writeth  Ptolemy; 

Read  in  his  Almagest,  and  take  it  there." 

"Dame,  I  would  pray  you,  if  your  will  it  were," 

Saide  this  Pardoner,  "as  ye  began. 

Tell  forth  your  tale,  and  spare  for  no  man. 

And  teach  us  younge  men  of  your  practique." 

"Gladly,"  quoth  she,  "since  that  it  may  you  like. 

But  that  I  pray  to  all  this  company. 


*suffer  for 
*rather 
Wait  in  patience 


*that  tun* 


184 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


If  that  I  speak  after  my  fantasy, 

To  take  nought  agrieP  what  I  may  say; 

For  mine  intent  is  only  for  to  play. 


*to  heart 


Now,  Sirs,  then  will  I  tell  you  forth  my  tale. 

As  ever  may  I  drinke  wine  or  ale 

I  shall  say  sooth;  the  husbands  that  I  had 

Three  of  them  were  good,  and  two  were  bad 

The  three  were  goode  men,  and  rich,  and  old 

*Unnethes  mighte  they  the  statute  hold*      *they  could  with  difficulty 

In  which  that  they  were  bounden  unto  me.  obey  the  law* 

Yet  wot  well  what  I  mean  of  this,  pardie.*  *by  God 

As  God  me  help,  I  laugh  when  that  I  think 

How  piteously  at  night  I  made  them  swink,*  *labour 

But,  *by  my  fay,  I  told  of  it  no  store:*  *by  my  faith,  I  held  it 

They  had  me  giv'n  their  land  and  their  treasor,  of  no  account* 

Me  needed  not  do  longer  diligence 

To  win  their  love,  or  do  them  reverence. 

They  loved  me  so  well,  by  God  above. 

That  I  *tolde  no  dainty*  of  their  love.  *cared  nothing  for* 

A  wise  woman  will  busy  her  ever-in-one*  *constantly 

To  get  their  love,  where  that  she  hath  none. 

But,  since  I  had  them  wholly  in  my  hand. 

And  that  they  had  me  given  all  their  land. 

Why  should  I  take  keep*  them  for  to  please,  *care 

But*  it  were  for  my  profit,  or  mine  ease?  *unless 

I  set  them  so  a-worke,  by  my  fay. 

That  many  a  night  they  sange,  well-away! 

The  bacon  was  not  fetched  for  them,  I  trow. 

That  some  men  have  in  Essex  at  Dunmow.<9> 

I  govern'd  them  so  well  after  my  law. 

That  each  of  them  full  blissful  was  and  fawe*  *fain 

To  bringe  me  gay  thinges  from  the  fair. 

They  were  full  glad  when  that  I  spake  them  fair. 


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For,  God  it  wot,  I  *chid  them  spiteously* 
Now  hearken  how  I  bare  me  properly. 


185 


*rebuked  them  angrily* 


Ye  wise  wives,  that  can  understand. 

Thus  should  ye  speak,  and  *bear  them  wrong  on  hand,* 


*make  them 


For  half  so  boldely  can  there  no  man 
Swearen  and  lien  as  a  woman  can. 
(I  say  not  this  by  wives  that  be  wise, 
*But  iP  it  be  when  they  them  misadvise.) 
A  wise  wife,  if  that  she  can*  her  good. 
Shall  *beare  them  on  hand*  the  cow  is  wood. 
And  take  witness  of  her  owen  maid 
Of  their  assent:  but  hearken  how  I  said. 
"Sir  olde  kaynard,<10>  is  this  thine  array? 
Why  is  my  neigheboure's  wife  so  gay? 
She  is  honour 'd  *over  all  where*  she  go'th, 
I  sit  at  home,  I  have  no  *thrifty  cloth.* 
What  dost  thou  at  my  neigheboure's  house? 
Is  she  so  fair?  art  thou  so  amorous? 
What  rown'st*  thou  with  our  maid?  benedicite. 
Sir  olde  lechour,  let  thy  japes*  be. 
And  if  I  have  a  gossip,  or  a  friend 
(Withoute  guilt),  thou  chidest  as  a  fiend. 
If  that  I  walk  or  play  unto  his  house. 
Thou  comest  home  as  drunken  as  a  mouse. 
And  preachest  on  thy  bench,  with  evil  prefe:* 
Thou  say  St  to  me,  it  is  a  great  mischief 
To  wed  a  poore  woman,  for  costage:* 
And  if  that  she  be  rich,  of  high  parage;* 
Then  say'st  thou,  that  it  is  a  tormentry 
To  suffer  her  pride  and  melancholy. 
And  if  that  she  be  fair,  thou  very  knave. 
Thou  say'st  that  every  holour*  will  her  have; 
She  may  no  while  in  chastity  abide. 


believe  falsely* 


unless*  *act  unadvisedly 
*knows 
*make  them  believe* 


*wheresoever 
*good  clothes* 


*whisperest 
*tricks 


*proof 

*expense 
^  birth  <11> 


*whoremonger 


186 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  is  assailed  upon  every  side. 

Thou  say  St  some  folk  desire  us  for  richess, 

Some  for  our  shape,  and  some  for  our  fairness, 

And  some,  for  she  can  either  sing  or  dance. 

And  some  for  gentiless  and  dalliance. 

Some  for  her  handes  and  her  armes  smale: 

Thus  goes  all  to  the  devil,  by  thy  tale; 

Thou  say'st,  men  may  not  keep  a  castle  wall 

That  may  be  so  assailed  *over  all.*  *everywhere* 

And  if  that  she  be  foul,  thou  say'st  that  she 

Coveteth  every  man  that  she  may  see; 

For  as  a  spaniel  she  will  on  him  leap. 

Till  she  may  fmde  some  man  her  to  cheap;*  *buy 

And  none  so  grey  goose  goes  there  in  the  lake, 

(So  say'st  thou)  that  will  be  without  a  make.*  *mate 

And  say'st,  it  is  a  hard  thing  for  to  weld  *wield,  govern 

A  thing  that  no  man  will,  *his  thankes,  held.*  *hold  with  his  goodwill* 

Thus  say'st  thou,  lorel,*  when  thou  go'st  to  bed,      *good-for-nothing 

And  that  no  wise  man  needeth  for  to  wed. 

Nor  no  man  that  intendeth  unto  heaven. 

With  wilde  thunder  dint*  and  fiery  leven**  *  stroke  **lightning 

Mote*  thy  wicked  necke  be  to-broke.  *may 

Thou  say'st,  that  dropping  houses,  and  eke  smoke. 

And  chiding  wives,  make  men  to  flee 

Out  of  their  owne  house;  ah!  ben'dicite. 

What  aileth  such  an  old  man  for  to  chide? 

Thou  say'st,  we  wives  will  our  vices  hide. 

Till  we  be  fast,*  and  then  we  will  them  shew.  *wedded 

Well  may  that  be  a  proverb  of  a  shrew*  *ill- tempered  wretch 

Thou  say'st,  that  oxen,  asses,  horses,  hounds. 

They  be  *assayed  at  diverse  stounds,*  *tested  at  various 

Basons  and  lavers,  ere  that  men  them  buy,  seasons 

Spoones,  stooles,  and  all  such  husbandry. 

And  so  be  pots,  and  clothes,  and  array,*  *raiment 


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187 


But  folk  of  wives  make  none  assay. 

Till  they  be  wedded,  —  olde  dotard  shrew!  — 

And  then,  say'st  thou,  we  will  our  vices  shew. 

Thou  say'st  also,  that  it  displeaseth  me. 

But  if*  that  thou  wilt  praise  my  beauty,  *unless 

And  but*  thou  pore  alway  upon  my  face,  *unless 

And  call  me  faire  dame  in  every  place; 

And  but*  thou  make  a  feast  on  thilke**  day  *unless  **that 

That  I  was  born,  and  make  me  fresh  and  gay; 

And  but  thou  do  to  my  norice*  honour,  *nurse  <  12> 

And  to  my  chamberere*  within  my  bow'r,  *chamber-maid 

And  to  my  father's  folk,  and  mine  allies;*  *relations 

Thus  sayest  thou,  old  barrel  full  of  lies. 

And  yet  also  of  our  prentice  Jenkin, 

For  his  crisp  hair,  shining  as  gold  so  fme. 

And  for  he  squireth  me  both  up  and  down. 

Yet  hast  thou  caught  a  false  suspicioun: 

I  will  him  not,  though  thou  wert  dead  to-morrow. 

But  tell  me  this,  why  hidest  thou,  *with  sorrow. 

The  keyes  of  thy  chest  away  from  me? 

It  is  my  good*  as  well  as  thine,  pardie. 

What,  think'st  to  make  an  idiot  of  our  dame? 

Now,  by  that  lord  that  called  is  Saint  Jame, 

Thou  shalt  not  both,  although  that  thou  wert  wood. 

Be  master  of  my  body,  and  my  good,* 

The  one  thou  shalt  forego,  maugre*  thine  eyen. 

What  helpeth  it  of  me  t 'inquire  and  spyen? 

I  trow  thou  wouldest  lock  me  in  thy  chest. 

Thou  shouldest  say,  Tair  wife,  go  where  thee  lest; 

Take  your  disport;  I  will  believe  no  tales; 

I  know  you  for  a  true  wife.  Dame  Ales.'*  *Alice 

We  love  no  man,  that  taketh  keep*  or  charge  *car( 

Where  that  we  go;  we  will  be  at  our  large. 

Of  alle  men  most  blessed  may  he  be. 


sorrow  on  thee!* 


property 


*furious 
*property 
*in  spite  of 


1^ 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  wise  astrologer  Dan*  Ptolemy,  *Lord 

That  saith  this  proverb  in  his  Almagest:  <  13  > 

'Of  alle  men  his  wisdom  is  highest, 

That  recketh  not  who  hath  the  world  in  hand. 

By  this  proverb  thou  shalt  well  understand. 

Have  thou  enough,  what  thar*  thee  reck  or  care  *needs,  behoves 

How  merrily  that  other  folkes  fare? 

For  certes,  olde  dotard,  by  your  leave. 

Ye  shall  have  [pleasure]  <14>  right  enough  at  eve. 

He  is  too  great  a  niggard  that  will  werne*  *forbid 

A  man  to  light  a  candle  at  his  lantern; 

He  shall  have  never  the  less  light,  pardie. 

Have  thou  enough,  thee  thar*  not  plaine**  thee  *need  **complain 

Thou  say'st  also,  if  that  we  make  us  gay 

With  clothing  and  with  precious  array. 

That  it  is  peril  of  our  chastity. 

And  yet,  —  with  sorrow!  —  thou  enforcest  thee. 

And  say'st  these  words  in  the  apostle's  name: 

'In  habit  made  with  chastity  and  shame*  *modesty 

Ye  women  shall  apparel  you,'  quoth  he,<15> 

'And  not  in  tressed  hair  and  gay  perrie,*  *jewels 

As  pearles,  nor  with  gold,  nor  clothes  rich.' 

After  thy  text  nor  after  thy  rubrich 

I  will  not  work  as  muchel  as  a  gnat. 

Thou  say'st  also,  I  walk  out  like  a  cat; 

For  whoso  woulde  singe  the  catte's  skin 

Then  will  the  catte  well  dwell  in  her  inn;*  *house 

And  if  the  catte's  skin  be  sleek  and  gay. 

She  will  not  dwell  in  house  half  a  day. 

But  forth  she  will,  ere  any  day  be  daw'd. 

To  shew  her  skin,  and  go  a  caterwaw'd.*  *caterwauling 

This  is  to  say,  if  I  be  gay,  sir  shrew, 

I  will  run  out,  my  borel*  for  to  shew.  *apparel,  fme  clothes 

Sir  olde  fool,  what  helpeth  thee  to  spyen? 


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Though  thou  pray  Argus  with  his  hundred  eyen 
To  be  my  wardecorps,*  as  he  can  best  *body-guard 

In  faith  he  shall  not  keep  me,  *but  me  lest:*  *unless  I  please* 

Yet  could  I  *make  his  beard,*  so  may  I  the.  *make  a  jest  of  him* 


189 


"Thou  sayest  eke,  that  there  be  thinges  three,  *thrive 

Which  thinges  greatly  trouble  all  this  earth. 

And  that  no  wighte  may  endure  the  ferth:*  *fourth 

O  lefe*  sir  shrew,  may  Jesus  short**  thy  life.        *pleasant  **shorten 

Yet  preachest  thou,  and  say'st,  a  hateful  wife 

Y-reckon'd  is  for  one  of  these  mischances. 

Be  there  *none  other  manner  resemblances*  *no  other  kind  of 

That  ye  may  liken  your  parables  unto,  comparison* 

But  if  a  silly  wife  be  one  of  tho?*  *those 

Thou  likenest  a  woman's  love  to  hell; 

To  barren  land  where  water  may  not  dwell. 

Thou  likenest  it  also  to  wild  fire; 

The  more  it  burns,  the  more  it  hath  desire 

To  consume  every  thing  that  burnt  will  be. 

Thou  sayest,  right  as  wormes  shend*  a  tree,  *destroy 

Right  so  a  wife  destroyeth  her  husbond; 

This  know  they  well  that  be  to  wives  bond." 


*made  them  believe* 


Lordings,  right  thus,  as  ye  have  understand, 
*Bare  I  stiffly  mine  old  husbands  on  hand,* 
That  thus  they  saiden  in  their  drunkenness; 
And  all  was  false,  but  that  I  took  witness 
On  Jenkin,  and  upon  my  niece  also. 

0  Lord!  the  pain  I  did  them,  and  the  woe, 
'Full  guilteless,  by  Godde's  sweete  pine;* 
For  as  a  horse  I  coulde  bite  and  whine; 

1  coulde  plain,*  an'**  I  was  in  the  guilt,       *complain  **even  though 
Or  elles  oftentime  I  had  been  spilt*  *ruined 
Whoso  first  Cometh  to  the  nilll,  first  grint;*  *is  ground 


pain 


190 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


I  plained  first,  so  was  our  war  y-stint.*  *stopped 

They  were  full  glad  to  excuse  them  full  blive*  *quickly 

Of  things  that  they  never  *aguilt  their  live.*     *were  guilty  in  their 

lives* 
Of  wenches  would  I  *beare  them  on  hand,*  *falsely  accuse  them* 

When  that  for  sickness  scarcely  might  they  stand. 
Yet  tickled  I  his  hearte  for  that  he 

Ween'd*  that  I  had  of  him  so  great  cherte:**      *though  **affection<  16> 
I  swore  that  all  my  walking  out  by  night 

Was  for  to  espy  wenches  that  he  dight:*  *adorned 

Under  that  colour  had  I  many  a  mirth. 
For  all  such  wit  is  given  us  at  birth; 
Deceit,  weeping,  and  spinning,  God  doth  give 
To  women  kindly,  while  that  they  may  live.  *naturally 

And  thus  of  one  thing  I  may  vaunte  me. 
At  th'  end  I  had  the  better  in  each  degree. 
By  sleight,  or  force,  or  by  some  manner  thing. 
As  by  continual  murmur  or  grudging,*  *complaining 

Namely*  a-bed,  there  hadde  they  mischance,  *especially 

There  would  I  chide,  and  do  them  no  pleasance: 
I  would  no  longer  in  the  bed  abide. 
If  that  I  felt  his  arm  over  my  side. 
Till  he  had  made  his  ransom  unto  me. 

Then  would  I  suffer  him  do  his  nicety*  *folly  <  17> 

And  therefore  every  man  this  tale  I  tell. 
Win  whoso  may,  for  all  is  for  to  sell; 
With  empty  hand  men  may  no  hawkes  lure; 
For  winning  would  I  all  his  will  endure. 
And  make  me  a  feigned  appetite. 

And  yet  in  bacon*  had  I  never  delight:  *i.e.  of  Dunmow  <9> 

That  made  me  that  I  ever  would  them  chide. 
For,  though  the  Pope  had  sitten  them  beside, 
I  would  not  spare  them  at  their  owen  board. 
For,  by  my  troth,  I  quit*  them  word  for  word  *repaid 


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As  help  me  very  God  omnipotent. 

Though  I  right  now  should  make  my  testament 

I  owe  them  not  a  word,  that  is  not  quit*  *repaid 

I  brought  it  so  aboute  by  my  wit. 

That  they  must  give  it  up,  as  for  the  best 

Or  elles  had  we  never  been  in  rest. 

For,  though  he  looked  as  a  wood*  lion,  *furious 

Yet  should  he  fail  of  his  conclusion. 

Then  would  I  say,  "Now,  goode  lefe*  tak  keep**  *dear  **heed 

How  meekly  looketh  Wilken  oure  sheep! 

Come  near,  my  spouse,  and  let  me  ba*  thy  cheek  *kiss  <18> 

Ye  shoulde  be  all  patient  and  meek. 

And  have  a  *sweet  y-spiced*  conscience,  *tender,  nice* 

Since  ye  so  preach  of  Jobe's  patience. 

Suffer  alway,  since  ye  so  well  can  preach. 

And  but*  ye  do,  certain  we  shall  you  teach*  *unless 

That  it  is  fair  to  have  a  wife  in  peace. 

One  of  us  two  must  bowe*  doubteless:  *give  way 

And  since  a  man  is  more  reasonable 

Than  woman  is,  ye  must  be  suff 'rable. 

What  aileth  you  to  grudge*  thus  and  groan?  *complain 

Is  it  for  ye  would  have  my  [love]  <  14>  alone? 

Why,  take  it  all:  lo,  have  it  every  deal,*  *whit 

Peter!  <  19>  shrew*  you  but  ye  love  it  well  *curse 

For  if  I  woulde  sell  my  *belle  chose*,  *beautiful  thing* 

I  coulde  walk  as  fresh  as  is  a  rose. 

But  I  will  keep  it  for  your  owen  tooth. 

Ye  be  to  blame,  by  God,  I  say  you  sooth." 

Such  manner  wordes  hadde  we  on  hand. 


191 


Now  will  I  speaken  of  my  fourth  husband. 
My  fourthe  husband  was  a  revellour; 
This  is  to  say,  he  had  a  paramour. 
And  I  was  young  and  full  of  ragerie,* 


wantonness 


192 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


magpie 


*certainly 


Stubborn  and  strong,  and  jolly  as  a  pie.* 

Then  could  I  dance  to  a  harpe  smale, 

And  sing,  y-wis,*  as  any  nightingale. 

When  I  had  drunk  a  draught  of  sweete  wine. 

Metellius,  the  foule  churl,  the  swine. 

That  with  a  staff  bereft  his  wife  of  life 

For  she  drank  wine,  though  I  had  been  his  wife. 

Never  should  he  have  daunted  me  from  drink: 

And,  after  wine,  of  Venus  most  I  think. 

For  all  so  sure  as  cold  engenders  hail, 

A  liquorish  mouth  must  have  a  liquorish  tail. 

In  woman  vinolent*  is  no  defence,**  *full  of  wine  *resistance 

This  knowe  lechours  by  experience. 

But,  lord  Christ,  when  that  it  rememb'reth  me 

Upon  my  youth,  and  on  my  jollity. 

It  tickleth  me  about  mine  hearte-root; 

Unto  this  day  it  doth  mine  hearte  boot,* 

That  I  have  had  my  world  as  in  my  time. 

But  age,  alas!  that  all  will  envenime,* 

Hath  me  bereft  my  beauty  and  my  pith:* 

Let  go;  farewell;  the  devil  go  therewith. 

The  flour  is  gon,  there  is  no  more  to  tell. 

The  bran,  as  I  best  may,  now  must  I  sell. 

But  yet  to  be  right  merry  will  I  fand.* 

Now  forth  to  tell  you  of  my  fourth  husband, 

I  say,  I  in  my  heart  had  great  despite. 

That  he  of  any  other  had  delight; 

But  he  was  quit,*  by  God  and  by  Saint  Joce:<21> 

I  made  for  him  of  the  same  wood  a  cross; 

Not  of  my  body  in  no  foul  mannere. 

But  certainly  I  made  folk  such  cheer. 

That  in  his  owen  grease  I  made  him  fry 

For  anger,  and  for  very  jealousy. 

By  God,  in  earth  I  was  his  purgatory. 


*poison,  embitter 
*vigour 


"try 


*requited,  paid  back 


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193 


For  which  I  hope  his  soul  may  be  in  glory. 
For,  God  it  wot,  he  sat  full  oft  and  sung. 
When  that  his  shoe  full  bitterly  him  wrung.* 
There  was  no  wight,  save  God  and  he,  that  wist 
In  many  wise  how  sore  I  did  him  twist.  <  20  > 
He  died  when  I  came  from  Jerusalem, 
And  lies  in  grave  under  the  *roode  beam:* 
Although  his  tomb  is  not  so  curious 
As  was  the  sepulchre  of  Darius, 
Which  that  Apelles  wrought  so  subtlely 
It  is  but  waste  to  bury  them  preciously. 
Let  him  fare  well,  God  give  his  soule  rest. 
He  is  now  in  his  grave  and  in  his  chest. 


*pinched 


Now  of  my  fifthe  husband  will  I  tell: 
God  let  his  soul  never  come  into  hell. 
And  yet  was  he  to  me  the  moste  shrew;* 
That  feel  I  on  my  ribbes  all  *by  rew,* 
And  ever  shall,  until  mine  ending  day. 
But  in  our  bed  he  was  so  fresh  and  gay. 
And  therewithal  so  well  he  could  me  glose,'^ 
When  that  he  woulde  have  my  belle  chose. 
Though  he  had  beaten  me  on  every  bone. 
Yet  could  he  win  again  my  love  anon. 
I  trow,  I  lov'd  him  better,  for  that  he 
Was  of  his  love  so  dangerous*  to  me. 
We  women  have,  if  that  I  shall  not  lie. 
In  this  matter  a  quainte  fantasy. 
Whatever  thing  we  may  not  lightly  have. 
Thereafter  will  we  cry  all  day  and  crave. 
Forbid  us  thing,  and  that  desire  we; 
Press  on  us  fast,  and  thenne  will  we  flee. 
With  danger*  utter  we  all  our  chaffare;** 
Great  press  at  market  maketh  deare  ware. 


*cruel,  ill-tempered 
*in  a  row 


*flatter 


*sparing,  difficult 


'difficulty  **merchandise 


194 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  too  great  cheap  is  held  at  little  price; 

This  knoweth  every  woman  that  is  wise. 

My  fifthe  husband,  God  his  soule  bless, 

Which  that  I  took  for  love  and  no  richess. 

He  some  time  was  *a  clerk  of  Oxenford,*  *a  scholar  of  Oxford* 

And  had  left  school,  and  went  at  home  to  board 

With  my  gossip,*  dwelling  in  oure  town:  *godmother 

God  have  her  soul,  her  name  was  Alisoun. 

She  knew  my  heart,  and  all  my  privity. 

Bet  than  our  parish  priest,  so  may  I  the.*  *thrive 

To  her  betrayed  I  my  counsel  all; 

For  had  my  husband  pissed  on  a  wall. 

Or  done  a  thing  that  should  have  cost  his  life. 

To  her,  and  to  another  worthy  wife. 

And  to  my  niece,  which  that  I  loved  well, 

I  would  have  told  his  counsel  every  deal.*  *jot 

And  so  I  did  full  often,  God  it  wot. 

That  made  his  face  full  often  red  and  hot 

For  very  shame,  and  blam'd  himself,  for  he 

Had  told  to  me  so  great  a  privity*  *secret 

And  so  befell  that  ones  in  a  Lent 

(So  oftentimes  I  to  my  gossip  went. 

For  ever  yet  I  loved  to  be  gay. 

And  for  to  walk  in  March,  April,  and  May 

From  house  to  house,  to  heare  sundry  tales). 

That  Jenkin  clerk,  and  my  gossip.  Dame  Ales, 

And  I  myself,  into  the  fieldes  went. 

Mine  husband  was  at  London  all  that  Lent; 

I  had  the  better  leisure  for  to  play. 

And  for  to  see,  and  eke  for  to  be  sey*  *seen 

Of  lusty  folk;  what  wist  I  where  my  grace*  *favour 

Was  shapen  for  to  be,  or  in  what  place?  *appointed 

Therefore  made  I  my  visitations 

To  vigilies,*  and  to  processions,  *festival-eves<22> 


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195 


gowns 

Vhit 
*worn 


foresight 


To  preachings  eke,  and  to  these  pilgrimages. 

To  plays  of  miracles,  and  marriages. 

And  weared  upon  me  gay  scarlet  gites.* 

These  wormes,  nor  these  mothes,  nor  these  mites 

On  my  apparel  frett*  them  never  a  deal**  *fed  ' 

And  know'st  thou  why?  for  they  were  used*  well. 

Now  will  I  telle  forth  what  happen'd  me: 

I  say,  that  in  the  fieldes  walked  we. 

Till  truely  we  had  such  dalliance. 

This  clerk  and  I,  that  of  my  purveyance* 

I  spake  to  him,  and  told  him  how  that  he. 

If  I  were  widow,  shoulde  wedde  me. 

For  certainly,  I  say  for  no  bobance,* 

Yet  was  I  never  without  purveyance* 

Of  marriage,  nor  of  other  thinges  eke: 

I  hold  a  mouse's  wit  not  worth  a  leek. 

That  hath  but  one  hole  for  to  starte*  to,<24> 

And  if  that  faile,  then  is  all  y-do.* 

[*I  bare  him  on  hand*  he  had  enchanted  me 

(My  dame  taughte  me  that  subtilty); 

And  eke  I  said,  I  mette*  of  him  all  night. 

He  would  have  slain  me,  as  I  lay  upright. 

And  all  my  bed  was  full  of  very  blood; 

But  yet  I  hop'd  that  he  should  do  me  good; 

For  blood  betoken'd  gold,  as  me  was  taught. 

And  all  was  false,  I  dream'd  of  him  right  naught. 

But  as  I  follow'd  aye  my  dame's  lore. 

As  well  of  that  as  of  other  things  more.]  <2S> 

But  now,  sir,  let  me  see,  what  shall  I  sayn? 

Aha!  by  God,  I  have  my  tale  again. 

When  that  my  fourthe  husband  was  on  bier, 

I  wept  algate*  and  made  a  sorry  cheer,**  *always  **countenance 

As  wives  must,  for  it  is  the  usage; 

And  with  my  kerchief  covered  my  visage; 


boasting<23> 
*foresight 


escape 
*done 
falsely  assured  him* 

*dreamed 


196 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


''mate 
*promise 

*those 


*keeping 


*see  note  <26> 


But,  for  I  was  provided  with  a  make,* 

I  wept  but  little,  that  I  undertake* 

To  churche  was  mine  husband  borne  a-morrow 

With  neighebours  that  for  him  made  sorrow. 

And  Jenkin,  oure  clerk,  was  one  of  tho:* 

As  help  me  God,  when  that  I  saw  him  go 

After  the  bier,  methought  he  had  a  pair 

Of  legges  and  of  feet  so  clean  and  fair. 

That  all  my  heart  I  gave  unto  his  hold.* 

He  was,  I  trow,  a  twenty  winter  old. 

And  I  was  forty,  if  I  shall  say  sooth. 

But  yet  I  had  always  a  colte's  tooth. 

Gat-toothed*  I  was,  and  that  became  me  well, 

I  had  the  print  of  Sainte  Venus'  seal. 

[As  help  me  God,  I  was  a  lusty  one. 

And  fair,  and  rich,  and  young,  and  *well  begone:*         *in  a  good  way* 

For  certes  I  am  all  venerian*  *under  the  influence  of  Venus 

In  feeling,  and  my  heart  is  martian;*       *under  the  influence  of  Mars 

Venus  me  gave  my  lust  and  liquorishness. 

And  Mars  gave  me  my  sturdy  hardiness.]  <25> 

Mine  ascendant  was  Taure,*  and  Mars  therein:  *Taurus 

Alas,  alas,  that  ever  love  was  sin! 

I  follow'd  aye  mine  inclination 

By  virtue  of  my  constellation: 

That  made  me  that  I  coulde  not  withdraw 

My  chamber  of  Venus  from  a  good  fellaw 

[Yet  have  I  Marte's  mark  upon  my  face. 

And  also  in  another  privy  place. 

For  God  so  wisly*  be  my  salvation,  *certainly 

I  loved  never  by  discretion. 

But  ever  follow'd  mine  own  appetite. 

All*  were  he  short,  or  long,  or  black,  or  white,  *whether 

I  took  no  keep,*  so  that  he  liked  me,  *heed 

How  poor  he  was,  neither  of  what  degree.]  <25> 


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197 


What  should  I  say?  but  that  at  the  month's  end 

This  jolly  clerk  Jenkin,  that  was  so  hend,* 

Had  wedded  me  with  great  solemnity. 

And  to  him  gave  I  all  the  land  and  fee 

That  ever  was  me  given  therebefore: 

But  afterward  repented  me  full  sore. 

He  woulde  suffer  nothing  of  my  list.* 

By  God,  he  smote  me  ones  with  his  fist. 

For  that  I  rent  out  of  his  book  a  leaf. 

That  of  the  stroke  mine  eare  wax'd  all  deaf 

Stubborn  I  was,  as  is  a  lioness. 

And  of  my  tongue  a  very  jangleress,* 

And  walk  I  would,  as  I  had  done  beforn. 

From  house  to  house,  although  he  had  it  sworn:' 

For  which  he  oftentimes  woulde  preach 

And  me  of  olde  Roman  gestes*  teach 

How  that  Sulpitius  Gallus  left  his  wife 

And  her  forsook  for  term  of  all  his 

For  nought  but  open-headed*  he  her  say** 

Looking  out  at  his  door  upon  a  day. 

Another  Roman  <27>  told  he  me  by  name. 

That,  for  his  wife  was  at  a  summer  game 

Without  his  knowing,  he  forsook  her  eke. 

And  then  would  he  upon  his  Bible  seek 

That  ilke*  proverb  of  Ecclesiast, 

Where  he  commandeth,  and  forbiddeth  fast, 

Man  shall  not  suffer  his  wife  go  roll  about. 

Then  would  he  say  right  thus  withoute  doubt: 

"Whoso  that  buildeth  his  house  all  of  sallows,* 

And  pricketh  his  blind  horse  over  the  fallows. 

And  suff 'reth  his  wife  to  *go  seeke  hallows,* 

Is  worthy  to  be  hanged  on  the  gallows." 

But  all  for  nought;  I  *sette  not  a  haw* 

Of  his  proverbs,  nor  of  his  olde  saw; 


courteous 


*pleasure 


prater 

*had  sworn  to 
prevent  it 
*stories 


*bare-headed  **saw 


*willows 
*make  pilgrimages* 
^cared  nothing  for* 


198 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Nor  would  I  not  of  him  corrected  be. 

I  hate  them  that  my  vices  telle  me, 

And  so  do  more  of  us  (God  wot)  than  I. 

This  made  him  wood*  with  me  all  utterly;  *furious 

I  woulde  not  forbear*  him  in  no  case.  *endure 

Now  will  I  say  you  sooth,  by  Saint  Thomas, 

Why  that  I  rent  out  of  his  book  a  leaf. 

For  which  he  smote  me,  so  that  I  was  deaf 

He  had  a  book,  that  gladly  night  and  day 

For  his  disport  he  would  it  read  alway; 

He  call'd  it  Valerie, < 28  >  andTheophrast, 

And  with  that  book  he  laugh'd  alway  full  fast. 

And  eke  there  was  a  clerk  sometime  at  Rome, 

A  cardinal,  that  highte  Saint  Jerome, 

That  made  a  book  against  Jovinian, 

Which  book  was  there;  and  ekeTertullian, 

Chrysippus,Trotula,  and  Heloise, 

That  was  an  abbess  not  far  from  Paris; 

And  eke  the  Parables*  of  Solomon,  *Proverbs 

Ovide's  Art,  <29>  and  bourdes*  many  one;  *jests 

And  alle  these  were  bound  in  one  volume. 

And  every  night  and  day  was  his  custume 

(When  he  had  leisure  and  vacation 

From  other  worldly  occupation) 

To  readen  in  this  book  of  wicked  wives. 

He  knew  of  them  more  legends  and  more  lives 

Than  be  of  goodde  wives  in  the  Bible. 

For,  trust  me  well,  it  is  an  impossible 

That  any  clerk  will  speake  good  of  wives, 

(*But  iP  it  be  of  holy  saintes'  lives)  *unless 

Nor  of  none  other  woman  never  the  mo'. 

Who  painted  the  lion,  tell  it  me,  who? 

By  God,  if  women  haddde  written  stories. 

As  clerkes  have  within  their  oratories. 


Upon  a  night  Jenkin,  that  was  our  sire,* 
Read  on  his  book,  as  he  sat  by  the  fire. 
Of  Eva  first,  that  for  her  wickedness 
Was  all  mankind  brought  into  wretchedness, 
For  which  that  Jesus  Christ  himself  was  slain. 
That  bought  us  with  his  hearte-blood  again. 
Lo  here  express  of  women  may  ye  find 
That  woman  was  the  loss  of  all  mankind. 
Then  read  he  me  how  Samson  lost  his  hairs 
Sleeping,  his  leman  cut  them  with  her  shears. 
Through  whiche  treason  lost  he  both  his  eyen. 
Then  read  he  me,  if  that  I  shall  not  lien. 
Of  Hercules,  and  of  his  Dejanire, 
That  caused  him  to  set  himself  on  fire. 
Nothing  forgot  he  of  the  care  and  woe 


extravagance 


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They  would  have  writ  of  men  more  wickedness 

Than  all  the  mark  of  Adam  <30>  may  redress 

The  children  of  Mercury  and  of  Venus,<31> 

Be  in  their  working  full  contrarious. 

Mercury  loveth  wisdom  and  science. 

And  Venus  loveth  riot  and  dispence.* 

And  for  their  diverse  disposition. 

Each  falls  in  other  s  exaltation. 

As  thus,  God  wot.  Mercury  is  desolate 

In  Pisces,  where  Venus  is  exaltate. 

And  Venus  falls  where  Mercury  is  raised.  <32> 

Therefore  no  woman  by  no  clerk  is  praised. 

The  clerk,  when  he  is  old,  and  may  not  do 

Of  Venus' works  not  worth  his  olde  shoe. 

Then  sits  he  down,  and  writes  in  his  dotage. 

That  women  cannot  keep  their  marriage. 

But  now  to  purpose,  why  I  tolde  thee 

That  I  was  beaten  for  a  book,  pardie. 


199 


*goodman 


200 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  Socrates  had  with  his  wives  two; 

HowXantippe  cast  piss  upon  his  head. 

This  silly  man  sat  still,  as  he  were  dead, 

He  wip'd  his  head,  and  no  more  durst  he  sayn. 

But,  "Ere  the  thunder  stint*  there  cometh  rain."  *ceases 

Of  Phasiphae,  that  was  queen  of  Crete, 

For  shrewedness*  he  thought  the  tale  sweet.  *wickedness 

Fy,  speak  no  more,  it  is  a  grisly  thing. 

Of  her  horrible  lust  and  her  liking. 

Of  Clytemnestra,  for  her  lechery 

That  falsely  made  her  husband  for  to  die. 

He  read  it  with  full  good  devotion. 

He  told  me  eke,  for  what  occasion 

Amphiorax  at  Thebes  lost  his  life: 

My  husband  had  a  legend  of  his  wife 

Eryphile,  that  for  an  ouche*  of  gold  *clasp,  collar 

Had  privily  unto  the  Greekes  told. 

Where  that  her  husband  hid  him  in  a  place. 

For  which  he  had  at  Thebes  sorry  grace. 

Of  Luna  told  he  me,  and  of  Lucie; 

They  bothe  made  their  husbands  for  to  die. 

That  one  for  love,  that  other  was  for  hate. 

Luna  her  husband  on  an  ev'ning  late 

Empoison'd  had,  for  that  she  was  his  foe: 

Lucia  liquorish  lov'd  her  husband  so. 

That,  for  he  should  always  upon  her  think. 

She  gave  him  such  a  manner*  love-drink,  *sort  of 

That  he  was  dead  before  it  were  the  morrow: 

And  thus  algates*  husbands  hadde  sorrow.  *always 

Then  told  he  me  how  one  Latumeus 

Complained  to  his  fellow  Arius 

That  in  his  garden  growed  such  a  tree. 

On  which  he  said  how  that  his  wives  three 

Hanged  themselves  for  heart  dispiteous. 


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"O  leve*  brother,"  quoth  this  Arius,  *dear 

"Give  me  a  plant  of  thilke*  blessed  tree,  *that 

And  in  my  garden  planted  shall  it  be." 

Of  later  date  of  wives  hath  he  read. 

That  some  have  slain  their  husbands  in  their  bed. 

And  let  their  *lechour  dight  them*  all  the  night,       *lover  ride  them* 

While  that  the  corpse  lay  on  the  floor  upright: 

And  some  have  driven  nails  into  their  brain. 

While  that  they  slept,  and  thus  they  have  them  slain: 

Some  have  them  given  poison  in  their  drink: 

He  spake  more  harm  than  hearte  may  bethink. 

And  therewithal  he  knew  of  more  proverbs. 

Than  in  this  world  there  groweth  grass  or  herbs. 

"Better  (quoth  he)  thine  habitation 

Be  with  a  lion,  or  a  foul  dragon. 

Than  with  a  woman  using  for  to  chide. 

Better  (quoth  he)  high  in  the  roof  abide. 

Than  with  an  angry  woman  in  the  house. 

They  be  so  wicked  and  contrarious: 

They  hate  that  their  husbands  loven  aye." 

He  said,  "A  woman  cast  her  shame  away 

When  she  cast  off  her  smock;"  and  farthermo', 

"A  fair  woman,  but*  she  be  chaste  also,  *except 

Is  like  a  gold  ring  in  a  sowe's  nose. 

Who  coulde  ween,*  or  who  coulde  suppose  *think 

The  woe  that  in  mine  heart  was,  and  the  pine?*  *pain 

And  when  I  saw  that  he  would  never  fme*  *fmish 

To  readen  on  this  cursed  book  all  night. 

All  suddenly  three  leaves  have  I  plight*  *plucked 

Out  of  his  book,  right  as  he  read,  and  eke 

I  with  my  fist  so  took  him  on  the  cheek. 

That  in  our  fire  he  backward  fell  adown. 

And  he  up  start,  as  doth  a  wood*  lion,  *furious 

And  with  his  fist  he  smote  me  on  the  head. 


201 


202 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  on  the  floor  I  lay  as  I  were  dead. 

And  when  he  saw  how  still  that  there  I  lay, 

He  was  aghast,  and  would  have  fled  away. 

Till  at  the  last  out  of  my  swoon  I  braid,*  *woke 

"Oh,  hast  thou  slain  me,  thou  false  thief?"  I  said 

"And  for  my  land  thus  hast  thou  murder'd  me? 

Ere  I  be  dead,  yet  will  I  kisse  thee." 

And  near  he  came,  and  kneeled  fair  adown. 

And  saide",  "Deare  sister  Alisoun, 

As  help  me  God,  I  shall  thee  never  smite: 

That  I  have  done  it  is  thyself  to  wite,*  *blame 

Forgive  it  me,  and  that  I  thee  beseek."*  *beseech 

And  yet  eftsoons*  I  hit  him  on  the  cheek,  *immediately;  again 

And  saidde,  "Thief,  thus  much  am  I  awreak.*  *avenged 

Now  will  I  die,  I  may  no  longer  speak." 


But  at  the  last,  with  muche  care  and  woe 

We  fell  accorded*  by  ourselves  two:  *agreed 

He  gave  me  all  the  bridle  in  mine  hand 

To  have  the  governance  of  house  and  land. 

And  of  his  tongue,  and  of  his  hand  also. 

I  made  him  burn  his  book  anon  right  tho.*  *then 

And  when  that  I  had  gotten  unto  me 

By  mast'ry  all  the  sovereignety. 

And  that  he  said,  "Mine  owen  true  wife. 

Do  *as  thee  list,*  the  term  of  all  thy  life,  *as  pleases  thee* 

Keep  thine  honour,  and  eke  keep  mine  estate; 

After  that  day  we  never  had  debate. 

God  help  me  so,  I  was  to  him  as  kind 

As  any  wife  from  Denmark  unto  Ind, 

And  also  true,  and  so  was  he  to  me: 

I  pray  to  God  that  sits  in  majesty 

So  bless  his  soule,  for  his  mercy  dear. 

Now  will  I  say  my  tale,  if  ye  will  hear.  — 


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203 


The  Friar  laugh'd  when  he  had  heard  all  this: 
"Now,  Dame,"  quoth  he,  "so  have  I  joy  and  bliss. 
This  is  a  long  preamble  of  a  tale." 
And  when  the  Sompnour  heard  the  Friar  gale,* 
"Lo,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "Godde's  armes  two. 


*speak 


A  friar  will  intermete*  him  evermo': 

Lo,  goode  men,  a  fly  and  eke  a  frere 

Will  fall  in  ev'ry  dish  and  eke  mattere. 

What  speak'st  thou  of  perambulation?* 

What?  amble  or  trot;  or  peace,  or  go  sit  down: 

Thou  lettest*  our  disport  in  this  mattere." 

"Yea,  wilt  thou  so.  Sir  Sompnour?"  quoth  the  Frere; 

"Now  by  my  faith  I  shall,  ere  that  I  go. 

Tell  of  a  Sompnour  such  a  tale  or  two. 

That  all  the  folk  shall  laughen  in  this  place." 

"Now  do,  else.  Friar,  I  beshrew*  thy  face," 

Quoth  this  Sompnour;  "and  I  beshrewe  me. 

But  iP  I  telle  tales  two  or  three 

Of  friars,  ere  I  come  to  Sittingbourne, 

That  I  shall  make  thine  hearte  for  to  mourn: 

For  well  I  wot  thy  patience  is  gone." 

Our  Hoste  cried,  "Peace,  and  that  anon;" 

And  saide,  "Let  the  woman  tell  her  tale. 

Ye  fare*  as  folk  that  drunken  be  of  ale. 

Do,  Dame,  tell  forth  your  tale,  and  that  is  best." 

"All  ready,  sir,"  quoth  she,  "right  as  you  lest,* 

If  I  have  licence  of  this  worthy  Frere." 

"Yes,  Dame,"  quoth  he,  "tell  forth,  and  I  will  hear. 


interpose  <33> 


*preamble 


*hinderesst 


Unless 


*behave 


*please 


204 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Tale. 


In  olde  dayes  of  the  king  Arthour, 

Of  which  that  Britons  speake  great  honour, 

All  was  this  land  full  fill'd  of  faerie;*  *fairies 

The  Elf-queen,  with  her  jolly  company, 

Danced  full  oft  in  many  a  green  mead 

This  was  the  old  opinion,  as  I  read; 

I  speak  of  many  hundred  years  ago; 

But  now  can  no  man  see  none  elves  mo'. 

For  now  the  great  charity  and  prayeres 

Of  limitours,*  and  other  holy  freres,  *begging  friars  <2> 

That  search  every  land  and  ev'ry  stream 

As  thick  as  motes  in  the  sunne-beam. 

Blessing  halls,  chambers,  kitchenes,  and  bowers. 

Cities  and  burghes,  castles  high  and  towers, 

Thorpes*  and  barnes,  shepens**  and  dairies,      *villages  <  3  >  **stables 

This  makes  that  there  be  now  no  faeries: 

For  *there  as*  wont  to  walke  was  an  elf. 

There  walketh  now  the  limitour  himself. 

In  undermeles*  and  in  morrowings**. 

And  saith  his  matins  and  his  holy  things. 

As  he  goes  in  his  limitatioun.*  *begging  district 

Women  may  now  go  safely  up  and  down. 

In  every  bush,  and  under  every  tree; 

There  is  none  other  incubus  <5>  but  he; 

And  he  will  do  to  them  no  dishonour. 


*where* 


*evenings  <4>  **mornings 


And  so  befell  it,  that  this  king  Arthour 
Had  in  his  house  a  lusty  bacheler. 
That  on  a  day  came  riding  from  river:  <6> 
And  happen'd,  that,  alone  as  she  was  born. 
He  saw  a  maiden  walking  him  beforn. 
Of  which  maiden  anon,  maugre*  her  head. 


L  spite  of 


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By  very  force  he  reft  her  maidenhead: 
For  which  oppression  was  such  clamour. 
And  such  pursuit  unto  the  king  Arthour, 
That  damned*  was  this  knight  for  to  be  dead 
By  course  of  law,  and  should  have  lost  his  head; 
(Paraventure  such  was  the  statute  tho),* 
But  that  the  queen  and  other  ladies  mo' 
So  long  they  prayed  the  king  of  his  grace. 
Till  he  his  life  him  granted  in  the  place. 
And  gave  him  to  the  queen,  all  at  her  will 
To  choose  whether  she  would  him  save  or  spill* 
The  queen  thanked  the  king  with  all  her  might; 
And,  after  this,  thus  spake  she  to  the  knight. 
When  that  she  saw  her  time  upon  a  day 
"Thou  standest  yet,"  quoth  she,  "in  such  array,* 
That  of  thy  life  yet  hast  thou  no  surety; 
I  grant  thee  life,  if  thou  canst  tell  to  me 
What  thing  is  it  that  women  most  desiren: 
Beware,  and  keep  thy  neck-bone  from  the  iron* 
And  if  thou  canst  not  tell  it  me  anon. 
Yet  will  I  give  thee  leave  for  to  gon 
A  twelvemonth  and  a  day,  to  seek  and  lear* 
An  answer  suffisant*  in  this  mattere. 
And  surety  will  I  have,  ere  that  thou  pace,* 
Thy  body  for  to  yielden  in  this  place." 
Woe  was  the  knight,  and  sorrowfully  siked;* 
But  what?  he  might  not  do  all  as  him  liked. 
And  at  the  last  he  chose  him  for  to  wend,* 
And  come  again,  right  at  the  yeare's  end. 
With  such  answer  as  God  would  him  purvey:* 
And  took  his  leave,  and  wended  forth  his  way. 


205 


*condemned 
*then 


*destroy 
*a  position 

*executioner's  axe 

*learn 
*satisfactory 

*sighed 
*depart 
*provide 


He  sought  in  ev'ry  house  and  ev'ry  place. 
Where  as  he  hoped  for  to  fmde  grace. 


206 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


To  learne  what  thing  women  love  the  most: 

But  he  could  not  arrive  in  any  coast, 

Where  as  he  mighte  fmd  in  this  mattere 

Two  creatures  *according  in  fere.*  *agreeing  together* 

Some  said  that  women  loved  best  richess, 

Some  said  honour,  and  some  said  jolliness. 

Some  rich  array,  and  some  said  lust*  a-bed,  *pleasure 

And  oft  time  to  be  widow  and  be  wed. 

Some  said,  that  we  are  in  our  heart  most  eased 

When  that  we  are  y-flatter'd  and  y-praised. 

He  *went  full  nigh  the  sooth,*  I  will  not  lie;  *came  very  near 

A  man  shall  win  us  best  with  flattery;  the  truth* 

And  with  attendance,  and  with  business 

Be  we  y-limed,*  bothe  more  and  less.  *caught  with  bird-lime 

And  some  men  said  that  we  do  love  the  best 

For  to  be  free,  and  do  *right  as  us  lest,*  *whatever  we  please* 

And  that  no  man  reprove  us  of  our  vice. 

But  say  that  we  are  wise,  and  nothing  nice,*  *foolish 

For  truly  there  is  none  among  us  all. 

If  any  wight  will  *claw  us  on  the  gall,*  *see  note* 

That  will  not  kick,  for  that  he  saith  us  sooth: 

Assay,*  and  he  shall  fmd  it,  that  so  do'th.  *try 

For  be  we  never  so  vicious  within. 

We  will  be  held  both  wise  and  clean  of  sin. 

And  some  men  said,  that  great  delight  have  we 

For  to  be  held  stable  and  eke  secre,*  *discreet 

And  in  one  purpose  steadfastly  to  dwell. 

And  not  bewray*  a  thing  that  men  us  tell.  *give  away 

But  that  tale  is  not  worth  a  rake-stele.*  *rake-handle 

Pardie,  we  women  canne  nothing  hele,*  *hide 

Witness  on  Midas;  will  ye  hear  the  tale? 

Ovid,  amonges  other  thinges  smale*  *small 

Saith,  Midas  had,  under  his  longe  hairs. 

Growing  upon  his  head  two  ass's  ears; 


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207 


The  whiche  vice  he  hid,  as  best  he  might. 

Full  subtlely  from  every  man's  sight. 

That,  save  his  wife,  there  knew  of  it  no  mo'; 

He  lov'd  her  most,  and  trusted  her  also; 

He  prayed  her,  that  to  no  creature 

She  woulde  tellen  of  his  disfigure. 

She  swore  him,  nay,  for  all  the  world  to  win. 

She  would  not  do  that  villainy  or  sin. 

To  make  her  husband  have  so  foul  a  name: 

She  would  not  tell  it  for  her  owen  shame. 

But  natheless  her  thoughte  that  she  died. 

That  she  so  longe  should  a  counsel  hide; 

Her  thought  it  swell'd  so  sore  about  her  heart 

That  needes  must  some  word  from  her  astart 

And,  since  she  durst  not  tell  it  unto  man 

Down  to  a  marish  fast  thereby  she  ran. 

Till  she  came  there,  her  heart  was  all  afire: 

And,  as  a  bittern  bumbles*  in  the  mire,  *makes  a  humming  noise 

She  laid  her  mouth  unto  the  water  down 

"Bewray  me  not,  thou  water,  with  thy  soun'" 

Quoth  she,  "to  thee  I  tell  it,  and  no  mo'. 

Mine  husband  hath  long  ass's  eares  two! 

Now  is  mine  heart  all  whole;  now  is  it  out; 

I  might  no  longer  keep  it,  out  of  doubt." 

Here  may  ye  see,  though  we  a  time  abide, 

Yet  out  it  must,  we  can  no  counsel  hide. 

The  remnant  of  the  tale,  if  ye  will  hear. 

Read  in  Ovid,  and  there  ye  may  it  lear.*  *learn 


This  knight,  of  whom  my  tale  is  specially. 
When  that  he  saw  he  might  not  come  thereby. 
That  is  to  say,  what  women  love  the  most. 
Within  his  breast  full  sorrowful  was  his  ghost.* 
But  home  he  went,  for  he  might  not  sojourn. 


''spirit 


208 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  day  was  come,  that  homeward  he  must  turn. 

And  in  his  way  it  happen'd  him  to  ride, 

In  all  his  care,*  under  a  forest  side,  *trouble,  anxiety 

Where  as  he  saw  upon  a  dance  go 

Of  ladies  four-and-twenty,  and  yet  mo'. 

Toward  this  ilke*  dance  he  drew  full  yern,**        *same  **eagerly  <  10> 

The  hope  that  he  some  wisdom  there  should  learn; 

But  certainly,  ere  he  came  fully  there, 

Y-vanish'd  was  this  dance,  he  knew  not  where; 

No  creature  saw  he  that  bare  life. 

Save  on  the  green  he  sitting  saw  a  wife, 

A  fouler  wight  there  may  no  man  devise.*  *imagine,  tell 

Against*  this  knight  this  old  wife  gan  to  rise,  *to  meet 

And  said,  "Sir  Knight,  hereforth*  lieth  no  way.  *from  here 

Tell  me  what  ye  are  seeking,  by  your  fay. 

Paraventure  it  may  the  better  be: 

These  olde  folk  know  muche  thing."  quoth  she. 

My  leve*  mother,"  quoth  this  knight,  "certain,  *dear 

I  am  but  dead,  but  iP  that  I  can  sayn  *unless 

What  thing  it  is  that  women  most  desire: 

Could  ye  me  wiss,*  I  would  well  *quite  your  hire."*        *instruct  <  1 1  > 

"Plight  me  thy  troth  here  in  mine  hand,"  quoth  she,         *reward  you* 

"The  nexte  thing  that  I  require  of  thee 

Thou  shalt  it  do,  if  it  be  in  thy  might. 

And  I  will  tell  it  thee  ere  it  be  night." 

"Have  here  my  trothe,"  quoth  the  knight;  "I  grant." 

"Thenne,"  quoth  she,  "I  dare  me  well  avaunt,*  *boast,  affirm 

Thy  life  is  safe,  for  I  will  stand  thereby. 

Upon  my  life  the  queen  will  say  as  I: 

Let  see,  which  is  the  proudest  of  them  all. 

That  wears  either  a  kerchief  or  a  caul. 

That  dare  say  nay  to  that  I  shall  you  teach. 

Let  us  go  forth  withoute  longer  speech 

Then  *rowned  she  a  pistel*  in  his  ear,  *she  whispered  a  secret* 


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And  bade  him  to  be  glad,  and  have  no  fear. 

When  they  were  come  unto  the  court,  this  knight 

Said,  he  had  held  his  day,  as  he  had  hight,*  *promised 

And  ready  was  his  answer,  as  he  said. 

Full  many  a  noble  wife,  and  many  a  maid. 

And  many  a  widow,  for  that  they  be  wise,  — 

The  queen  herself  sitting  as  a  justice,  — 

Assembled  be,  his  answer  for  to  hear. 

And  afterward  this  knight  was  bid  appear. 

To  every  wight  commanded  was  silence. 

And  that  the  knight  should  tell  in  audience. 

What  thing  that  worldly  women  love  the  best. 

This  knight  he  stood  not  still,  as  doth  a  beast. 

But  to  this  question  anon  answer 'd 

With  manly  voice,  that  all  the  court  it  heard, 

"My  liege  lady,  generally,"  quoth  he, 

"Women  desire  to  have  the  sovereignty 

As  well  over  their  husband  as  their  love 

And  for  to  be  in  mast'ry  him  above. 

This  is  your  most  desire,  though  ye  me  kill. 

Do  as  you  list,  I  am  here  at  your  will." 

In  all  the  court  there  was  no  wife  nor  maid 

Nor  widow,  that  contraried  what  he  said. 

But  said,  he  worthy  was  to  have  his  life. 

And  with  that  word  up  start  that  olde  wife 

Which  that  the  knight  saw  sitting  on  the  green. 


209 


"Mercy,"  quoth  she,  "my  sovereign  lady  queen. 
Ere  that  your  court  departe,  do  me  right. 
I  taughte  this  answer  unto  this  knight. 
For  which  he  plighted  me  his  trothe  there. 
The  firste  thing  I  would  of  him  requere. 
He  would  it  do,  if  it  lay  in  his  might. 


210 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Before  this  court  then  pray  I  thee,  Sir  Knight," 

Quoth  she,  "that  thou  me  take  unto  thy  wife. 

For  well  thou  know'st  that  I  have  kept*  thy  life.  *preserved 

If  I  say  false,  say  nay,  upon  thy  fay"*  *faith 

This  knight  answer 'd,  "Alas,  and  well-away! 

I  know  right  well  that  such  was  my  behest.*  *promise 

For  Godde's  love  choose  a  new  request 

Take  all  my  good,  and  let  my  body  go." 

"Nay,  then,"  quoth  she,  "I  shrew*  us  bothe  two,  *curse 

For  though  that  I  be  old,  and  foul,  and  poor, 

I  n'ould*  for  all  the  metal  nor  the  ore,  *would  not 

That  under  earth  is  grave,*  or  lies  above  *buried 

But  if  thy  wife  I  were  and  eke  thy  love." 

"My  love?"  quoth  he,  "nay,  my  damnation, 

Alas!  that  any  of  my  nation 

Should  ever  so  foul  disparaged  be. 

But  all  for  nought;  the  end  is  this,  that  he 

Constrained  was,  that  needs  he  muste  wed. 

And  take  this  olde  wife,  and  go  to  bed. 


Nowwoulde  some  men  say  paraventure 

That  for  my  negligence  I  do  no  cure* 

To  tell  you  all  the  joy  and  all  th'  array 

That  at  the  feast  was  made  that  ilke*  day. 

To  which  thing  shortly  answeren  I  shall: 

I  say  there  was  no  joy  nor  feast  at  all. 

There  was  but  heaviness  and  muche  sorrow: 

For  privily  he  wed  her  on  the  morrow; 

And  all  day  after  hid  him  as  an  owl. 

So  woe  was  him,  his  wife  look'd  so  foul 

Great  was  the  woe  the  knight  had  in  his  thought 

When  he  was  with  his  wife  to  bed  y-brought; 

He  wallow'd,  and  he  turned  to  and  fro. 

This  olde  wife  lay  smiling  evermo'. 


*take  no  pains 


fastidious,  niggardly 


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And  said,  "Dear  husband,  benedicite. 

Fares  every  knight  thus  with  his  wife  as  ye? 

Is  this  the  law  of  king  Arthoures  house? 

Is  every  knight  of  his  thus  dangerous?* 

I  am  your  owen  love,  and  eke  your  wife 

I  am  she,  which  that  saved  hath  your  life 

And  certes  yet  did  I  you  ne'er  unright. 

Why  fare  ye  thus  with  me  this  firste  night? 

Ye  fare  like  a  man  had  lost  his  wit. 

What  is  my  guilt?  for  God's  love  tell  me  it. 

And  it  shall  be  amended,  if  I  may." 

"Amended!"  quoth  this  knight;  "alas,  nay,  nay. 

It  will  not  be  amended,  never  mo'; 

Thou  art  so  loathly,  and  so  old  also. 

And  thereto*  comest  of  so  low  a  kind. 

That  little  wonder  though  I  wallow  and  wind; 

So  woulde  God,  mine  hearte  woulde  brest!"* 

"Is  this,"  quoth  she,  "the  cause  of  your  unrest?" 

"Yea,  certainly,"  quoth  he;  "no  wonder  is." 

"Now,  Sir,"  quoth  she,  "I  could  amend  all  this. 

If  that  me  list,  ere  it  were  dayes  three, 

*So  well  ye  mighte  bear  you  unto  me.* 

But,  for  ye  speaken  of  such  gentleness 

As  is  descended  out  of  old  ri chess. 

That  therefore  shalle  ye  be  gentlemen; 

Such  arrogancy  is  *not  worth  a  hen.* 

Look  who  that  is  most  virtuous  alway, 

*Prive  and  apert,*  and  most  intendeth  aye        "" 

To  do  the  gentle  deedes  that  he  can; 

And  take  him  for  the  greatest  gentleman. 

Christ  will,*  we  claim  of  him  our  gentleness. 

Not  of  our  elders*  for  their  old  richess. 

For  though  they  gave  us  all  their  heritage. 

For  which  we  claim  to  be  of  high  parage,* 


211 


*in  addition 
*writhe,  turn  about 
*burst 


*if  you  could  conduct 
yourself  well 
towards  me* 

*worth  nothing 

in  private  and  public* 


*wills,  requires 
*ancestors 

*birth,  descent 


212 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


sentiment 
*kind  of 
seldom 


Yet  may  they  not  bequeathe,  for  no  thing, 

To  none  of  us,  their  virtuous  living 

That  made  them  gentlemen  called  to  be. 

And  bade  us  follow  them  in  such  degree. 

Well  can  the  wise  poet  of  Florence, 

That  highte  Dante,  speak  of  this  sentence:* 

Lo,  in  such  manner*  rhyme  is  Dante's  tale. 

Tull  seld'*  upriseth  by  his  branches  smale 

Prowess  of  man,  for  God  of  his  goodness 

Wills  that  we  claim  of  him  our  gentleness;'  <12> 

For  of  our  elders  may  we  nothing  claim 

But  temp'ral  things  that  man  may  hurt  and  maim. 

Eke  every  wight  knows  this  as  well  as  I, 

If  gentleness  were  planted  naturally 

Unto  a  certain  lineage  down  the  line, 

Prive  and  apert,  then  would  they  never  fme* 

To  do  of  gentleness  the  fair  office 

Then  might  they  do  no  villainy  nor  vice. 

Take  fire,  and  bear  it  to  the  darkest  house 

Betwixt  this  and  the  mount  of  Caucasus, 

And  let  men  shut  the  doores,  and  go  thenne,* 

Yet  will  the  fire  as  fair  and  lighte  brenne* 

As  twenty  thousand  men  might  it  behold; 

*Its  office  natural  aye  will  it  hold,*  *it  will  perform  its 

On  peril  of  my  life,  till  that  it  die.  natural  duty* 

Here  may  ye  see  well  how  that  gentery*  *gentility,  nobility 

Is  not  annexed  to  possession. 

Since  folk  do  not  their  operation 

Alway,  as  doth  the  fire,  lo,  *in  its  kind*         *from  its  very  nature* 

For,  God  it  wot,  men  may  full  often  find 

A  lorde's  son  do  shame  and  villainy. 

And  he  that  will  have  price*  of  his  gent'ry,  *esteem,  honour 

For*  he  was  boren  of  a  gentle  house,  *because 

And  had  his  elders  noble  and  virtuous. 


*thence 
*burn 


"And  whereas  ye  of  povert'  me  repreve,* 
The  highe  God,  on  whom  that  we  believe. 
In  wilful  povert'  chose  to  lead  his  life: 
And  certes,  every  man,  maiden,  or  wife 
May  understand  that  Jesus,  heaven's  king, 
Ne  would  not  choose  a  virtuous  living. 
*Glad  povert'*  is  an  honest  thing,  certain; 
This  will  Senec  and  other  clerkes  sayn 
Whoso  that  *holds  him  paid  oP  his  povert', 
I  hold  him  rich  though  he  hath  not  a  shirt. 
He  that  coveteth  is  a  poore  wight 


renown 
*goodness,  worth 


"true 


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And  will  himselfe  do  no  gentle  deedes. 

Nor  follow  his  gentle  ancestry,  that  dead  is. 

He  is  not  gentle,  be  he  duke  or  earl; 

For  villain  sinful  deedes  make  a  churl. 

For  gentleness  is  but  the  renomee* 

Of  thine  ancestors,  for  their  high  bounte,* 

Which  is  a  strange  thing  to  thy  person: 

Thy  gentleness  cometh  from  God  alone. 

Then  comes  our  very*  gentleness  of  grace; 

It  was  no  thing  bequeath'd  us  with  our  place. 

Think  how  noble,  as  saith  Valerius, 

Was  thilke*  Tullius  Hostilius, 

That  out  of  povert'  rose  to  high 

Read  in  Senec,  and  read  eke  in  Boece, 

There  shall  ye  see  express,  that  it  no  drede*  is. 

That  he  is  gentle  that  doth  gentle  deedes. 

And  therefore,  leve*  husband,  I  conclude. 

Albeit  that  mine  ancestors  were  rude. 

Yet  may  the  highe  God,  —  and  so  hope  I,  — 

Grant  me  His  grace  to  live  virtuously: 

Then  am  I  gentle  when  that  I  begin 

To  live  virtuously,  and  waive*  sin. 


213 


*that 


*doubt 


*dear 


*forsake 


*rep  roach 


*poverty  cheerfully 
endured* 
*is  satisfied  with* 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  he  would  have  what  is  not  in  his  might 

But  he  that  nought  hath,  nor  coveteth  to  have, 

Is  rich,  although  ye  hold  him  but  a  knave.*        *slave,  abject  wretch 

*Very  povert'  is  sinne,*  properly.        *the  only  true  poverty  is  sin* 

Juvenal  saith  of  povert' merrily: 

The  poore  man,  when  he  goes  by  the  way 

Before  the  thieves  he  may  sing  and  play  <  13  > 

Povert'  is  hateful  good,<14>  and,  as  I  guess, 

A  full  great  *bringer  out  of  business;*  *deliver  from  trouble* 

A  great  amender  eke  of  sapience 

To  him  that  taketh  it  in  patience. 

Povert'  is  this,  although  it  seem  elenge*  *strange  <15> 

Possession  that  no  wight  will  challenge 

Povert'  full  often,  when  a  man  is  low. 

Makes  him  his  God  and  eke  himself  to  know 

Povert'  a  spectacle*  is,  as  thinketh  me  *a  pair  of  spectacles 

Through  which  he  may  his  very*  friendes  see.  *true 

And,  therefore.  Sir,  since  that  I  you  not  grieve. 

Of  my  povert'  no  more  me  repreve.*  *reproach 

"Now,  Sir,  of  elde*  ye  repreve  me:  *age 

And  certes.  Sir,  though  none  authority*  *text,  dictum 

Were  in  no  book,  ye  gentles  of  honour 

Say,  that  men  should  an  olde  wight  honour. 

And  call  him  father,  for  your  gentleness; 

And  authors  shall  I  fmden,  as  I  guess. 

Now  there  ye  say  that  I  am  foul  and  old. 

Then  dread  ye  not  to  be  a  cokewold.*  *cuckold 

For  filth,  and  elde,  all  so  may  I  the,*  *thrive 

Be  greate  wardens  upon  chastity. 

But  natheless,  since  I  know  your  delight, 

I  shall  fulfil  your  wordly  appetite. 

Choose  now,"  quoth  she,  "one  of  these  thinges  tway. 

To  have  me  foul  and  old  till  that  I  dey,*  *die 

And  be  to  you  a  true  humble  wife. 


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And  never  you  displease  in  all  my  life: 

Or  elles  will  ye  have  me  young  and  fair. 

And  take  your  aventure  of  the  repair*  *resort 

That  shall  be  to  your  house  because  of  me,  — 

Or  in  some  other  place,  it  may  well  be? 

Now  choose  yourselfe  whether  that  you  liketh. 


215 


This  knight  adviseth*  him  and  sore  he  siketh,**     *considered  **sighed 

But  at  the  last  he  said  in  this  mannere; 

"My  lady  and  my  love,  and  wife  so  dear, 

I  put  me  in  your  wise  governance. 

Choose  for  yourself  which  maybe  most  pleasance 

And  most  honour  to  you  and  me  also; 

I  *do  no  force*  the  whether  of  the  two:  *care  not 

For  as  you  liketh,  it  sufficeth  me." 

"Then  have  I  got  the  mastery,"  quoth  she, 

"Since  I  may  choose  and  govern  as  me  lest."*  *pleases 

"Yea,  certes  wife,"  quoth  he,  "I  hold  it  best." 

"Kiss  me,"  quoth  she,  "we  are  no  longer  wroth,*  *at  variance 

For  by  my  troth  I  will  be  to  you  both; 

This  is  to  say,  yea,  bothe  fair  and  good. 

I  pray  to  God  that  I  may  *sterve  wood,*  *die  mad* 

But*  I  to  you  be  all  so  good  and  true,  *unless 

As  ever  was  wife  since  the  world  was  new; 

And  but*  I  be  to-morrow  as  fair  to  seen,  *unless 

As  any  lady,  emperess  or  queen. 

That  is  betwixt  the  East  and  eke  the  West 

Do  with  my  life  and  death  right  as  you  lest.*  *please 

Cast  up  the  curtain,  and  look  how  it  is." 


And  when  the  knight  saw  verily  all  this. 
That  she  so  fair  was,  and  so  young  thereto. 
For  joy  he  hent*  her  in  his  armes  two: 
His  hearte  bathed  in  a  bath  of  bliss. 


*took 


216 


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A  thousand  times  *on  row*  he  gan  her  kiss: 
And  she  obeyed  him  in  every  thing 
That  mighte  do  him  pleasance  or  liking. 
And  thus  they  live  unto  their  lives'  end 
In  perfect  joy;  and  Jesus  Christ  us  send 
Husbandes  meek  and  young,  and  fresh  in  bed, 
And  grace  to  overlive  them  that  we  wed. 
And  eke  I  pray  Jesus  to  short  their  lives. 
That  will  not  be  governed  by  their  wives. 
And  old  and  angry  niggards  of  dispence,* 
God  send  them  soon  a  very  pestilence! 


m  succession 


expense 


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217 


"nja/}^6^ 


The  Prologue. 

This  worthy  limitour,  this  noble  Frere, 

He  made  always  a  manner  louring  cheer* 

Upon  the  Sompnour;  but  for  honesty* 

No  villain  word  as  yet  to  him  spake  he: 

But  at  the  last  he  said  unto  the  Wife: 

"Dame,"  quoth  he,  "God  give  you  right  good  life. 

Ye  have  here  touched,  all  so  may  I  the,* 

In  school  matter  a  greate  difficulty. 

Ye  have  said  muche  thing  right  well,  I  say; 

But,  Dame,  here  as  we  ride  by  the  way. 

Us  needeth  not  but  for  to  speak  of  game. 

And  leave  authorities,  in  Godde's  name. 

To  preaching,  and  to  school  eke  of  clergy. 

But  if  it  like  unto  this  company, 

I  will  you  of  a  Sompnour  tell  a  game; 

Pardie,  ye  may  well  knowe  by  the  name. 

That  of  a  Sompnour  may  no  good  be  said; 

I  pray  that  none  of  you  be  *evil  paid;* 

A  Sompnour  is  a  runner  up  and  down 

With  mandements*  for  fornicatioun. 

And  is  y-beat  at  every  towne's  end." 

Then  spake  our  Host;  "Ah,  sir,  ye  should  be  hend* 

And  courteous,  as  a  man  of  your  estate; 


countenance 
*courtesy 


*thrive 


*dissatisfied* 
*mandates,  summonses* 
*civil,  gentle 


^ 


218 


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In  company  we  will  have  no  debate: 

Tell  us  your  tale,  and  let  the  Sompnour  be." 

"Nay,"  quoth  the  Sompnour,  "let  him  say  by  me 

What  so  him  list;  when  it  comes  to  my  lot. 

By  God,  I  shall  him  quiten*  every  groat! 

I  shall  him  telle  what  a  great  honour 

It  is  to  be  a  flattering  limitour 

And  his  office  I  shall  him  tell  y-wis". 

Our  Host  answered,  "Peace,  no  more  of  this." 

And  afterward  he  said  unto  the  frere, 

"Tell  forth  your  tale,  mine  owen  master  dear." 


*pay  him  off 


The  Tale. 


Whilom*  there  was  dwelling  in  my  country 

An  archdeacon,  a  man  of  high  degree. 

That  boldely  did  execution. 

In  punishing  of  fornication. 

Of  witchecraft,  and  eke  of  bawdery. 

Of  defamation,  and  adultery. 

Of  churche-reeves,*  and  of  testaments. 

Of  contracts,  and  of  lack  of  sacraments. 

And  eke  of  many  another  manner*  crime. 

Which  needeth  not  rehearsen  at  this  time. 

Of  usury,  and  simony  also; 

But,  certes,  lechours  did  he  greatest  woe; 

They  shoulde  singen,  if  that  they  were  hent;* 

And  smale  tithers<  1  >  were  foul  y-shent,* 

If  any  person  would  on  them  complain; 

There  might  astert  them  no  pecunial  pain.<2> 

For  smalle  tithes,  and  small  offering. 

He  made  the  people  piteously  to  sing; 

For  ere  the  bishop  caught  them  with  his  crook. 


once  on  a  time 


*churchwardens 


*sort  of 


*caught 
troubled,  put  to  shame 


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They  weren  in  the  archedeacon's  book; 
Then  had  he,  through  his  jurisdiction. 
Power  to  do  on  them  correction. 

He  had  a  Sompnour  ready  to  his  hand, 

A  slier  boy  was  none  in  Engleland; 

For  subtlely  he  had  his  espiaille,*  *espionage 

That  taught  him  well  where  it  might  aught  avail. 

He  coulde  spare  of  lechours  one  or  two. 

To  teache  him  to  four  and  twenty  mo'. 

For,  —  though  this  Sompnour  wood*  be  as  a  hare,  —         *furious,  mad 

To  tell  his  harlotry  I  will  not  spare. 

For  we  be  out  of  their  correction. 

They  have  of  us  no  jurisdiction, 

Ne  never  shall  have,  term  of  all  their  lives. 


"Peter;  so  be  the  women  of  the  stives,"* 
Quoth  this  Sompnour,  "y-put  out  of  our  cure.' 


stews 


"Peace,  with  mischance  and  with  misaventure," 
Our  Hoste  said,  "and  let  him  tell  his  tale. 
Now  telle  forth,  and  let  the  Sompnour  gale,* 
Nor  spare  not,  mine  owen  master  dear." 


*whistle;  bawl 


This  false  thief,  the  Sompnour  (quoth  the  Frere), 

Had  always  bawdes  ready  to  his  hand. 

As  any  hawk  to  lure  in  Engleland, 

That  told  him  all  the  secrets  that  they  knew,  — 

For  their  acquaintance  was  not  come  of  new; 

They  were  his  approvers*  privily. 

He  took  himself  at  great  profit  thereby: 

His  master  knew  not  always  what  he  wan.* 

Withoute  mandement,  a  lewed*  man 

He  could  summon,  on  pain  of  Christe's  curse. 


informers 


won 
*ignorant 


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221 


And  they  were  inly  glad  to  fill  his  purse, 
And  make  him  greate  feastes  at  the  nale.* 
And  right  as  Judas  hadde  purses  smale,* 
And  was  a  thief,  right  such  a  thief  was  he. 
His  master  had  but  half  *his  duety* 
He  was  (if  I  shall  give  him  his  laud) 
A  thief,  and  eke  a  Sompnour,  and  a  bawd. 
And  he  had  wenches  at  his  retinue. 
That  whether  that  Sir  Robert  or  Sir  Hugh, 
Or  Jack,  or  Ralph,  or  whoso  that  it  were 
That  lay  by  them,  they  told  it  in  his  ear. 
Thus  were  the  wench  and  he  of  one  assent; 
And  he  would  fetch  a  feigned  mandement. 
And  to  the  chapter  summon  them  both  two. 
And  pill*  the  man,  and  let  the  wenche  go. 
Then  would  he  say,  "Friend,  I  shall  for  thy  sake 
Do  strike  thee  out  of  oure  letters  blake;* 
Thee  thar*  no  more  as  in  this  case  travail; 
I  am  thy  friend  where  I  may  thee  avail." 
Certain  he  knew  of  bribers  many  mo' 
Than  possible  is  to  tell  in  yeare's  two: 
For  in  this  world  is  no  dog  for  the  bow,<3> 
That  can  a  hurt  deer  from  a  whole  know. 
Bet*  than  this  Sompnour  knew  a  sly  lechour. 
Or  an  adult 'rer,  or  a  paramour: 
And,  for  that  was  the  fruit  of  all  his  rent. 
Therefore  on  it  he  set  all  his  intent. 


And  so  befell,  that  once  upon  a  day. 

This  Sompnour,  waiting  ever  on  his  prey. 

Rode  forth  to  summon  a  widow,  an  old  ribibe,<4> 

Feigning  a  cause,  for  he  would  have  a  bribe. 

And  happen'd  that  he  saw  before  him  ride 

A  gay  yeoman  under  a  forest  side: 


*alehouse 
*small 

What  was  owing  him* 


*plunder,  pluck 

*black 
*need 


*better 


A  bow  he  bare,  and  arrows  bright  and  keen. 

He  had  upon  a  courtepy*  of  green,  *short  doublet 

A  hat  upon  his  head  with  fringes  blake.*  *black 

"Sir,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "hail,  and  well  o'ertake." 

"Welcome,"  quoth  he,  "and  every  good  fellaw; 

Whither  ridest  thou  under  this  green  shaw?"*  shade 

Saide  this  yeoman;  "wilt  thou  far  to-day?" 

This  Sompnour  answer 'd  him,  and  saide,  "Nay. 

Here  faste  by,"  quoth  he,  "is  mine  intent 

To  ride,  for  to  raisen  up  a  rent. 

That  longeth  to  my  lorde's  duety." 

"Ah!  art  thou  then  a  bailiff?"  "Yea,"  quoth  he. 

He  durste  not  for  very  fdth  and  shame 

Say  that  he  was  a  Sompnour,  for  the  name. 

"De  par  dieux,"  <5>  quoth  this  yeoman,  "leve*  brother,  *dear 

Thou  art  a  bailiff,  and  I  am  another. 

I  am  unknowen,  as  in  this  country. 

Of  thine  acquaintance  I  will  praye  thee. 

And  eke  of  brotherhood,  if  that  thee  list.*  *please 

I  have  gold  and  silver  lying  in  my  chest; 

If  that  thee  hap  to  come  into  our  shire. 

All  shall  be  thine,  right  as  thou  wilt  desire." 

"Grand  mercy,"*  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "by  my  faith."        *great  thanks 

Each  in  the  other's  hand  his  trothe  lay'th. 

For  to  be  sworne  brethren  till  they  dey*  *die<6> 

In  dalliance  they  ride  forth  and  play. 

This  Sompnour,  which  that  was  as  full  of  jangles,*  *chattering 

As  full  of  venom  be  those  wariangles,*  *  butcher-birds  <7> 

And  ev'r  inquiring  upon  every  thing, 

"Brother,"  quoth  he,  "where  is  now  your  dwelling. 

Another  day  if  that  I  should  you  seech?"*  *seek,  visit 

This  yeoman  him  answered  in  soft  speech; 

Brother,"  quoth  he,  "far  in  the  North  country,<8> 


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Where  as  I  hope  some  time  I  shall  thee  see 

Ere  we  depart  I  shall  thee  so  well  wiss,*  *inform 

That  of  mine  house  shalt  thou  never  miss." 

Now,  brother,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "I  you  pray. 

Teach  me,  while  that  we  ride  by  the  way, 

(Since  that  ye  be  a  bailiff  as  am  I,) 

Some  subtilty,  and  tell  me  faithfully 

For  mine  office  how  that  I  most  may  win. 

And  *spare  not*  for  conscience  or  for  sin,  *conceal  nothing* 

But,  as  my  brother,  tell  me  how  do  ye." 

Now  by  my  trothe,  brother  mine,"  said  he. 

As  I  shall  tell  to  thee  a  faithful  tale: 

My  wages  be  full  strait  and  eke  full  smale; 

My  lord  is  hard  to  me  and  dangerous,*  *niggardly 

And  mine  office  is  full  laborious; 

And  therefore  by  extortion  I  live. 

Forsooth  I  take  all  that  men  will  me  give. 

Algate*  by  sleighte,  or  by  violence,  *whether 

From  year  to  year  I  win  all  my  dispence; 

I  can  no  better  tell  thee  faithfully." 

Now  certes,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "so  fare*  I;  *do 

I  spare  not  to  take,  God  it  wot, 

*But  iP  it  be  too  heavy  or  too  hot.  *unless* 

What  I  may  get  in  counsel  privily. 

No  manner  conscience  of  that  have  I. 

N'ere*  mine  extortion,  I  might  not  live,  *were  it  not  for 

For  of  such  japes*  will  I  not  be  shrive.**  *tricks  **confessed 

Stomach  nor  conscience  know  I  none; 

I  shrew*  these  shrifte-fathers**  every  one.  *curse  **confessors 

Well  be  we  met,  by  God  and  by  St  Jame. 

But,  leve  brother,  tell  me  then  thy  name," 

Quoth  this  Sompnour.  Right  in  this  meane  while 

This  yeoman  gan  a  little  for  to  smile. 


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"Brother,"  quoth  he,  "wilt  thou  that  I  thee  tell? 

I  am  a  fiend,  my  dwelling  is  in  hell. 

And  here  I  ride  about  my  purchasing. 

To  know  where  men  will  give  me  any  thing. 

*My  purchase  is  th'  effect  of  all  my  rent*         *what  I  can  gain  is  my 

Look  how  thou  ridest  for  the  same  intent  sole  revenue* 

To  winne  good,  thou  reckest  never  how. 

Right  so  fare  I,  for  ride  will  I  now 

Into  the  worlde's  ende  for  a  prey." 

"Ah,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "benedicite!  what  say  y'? 

I  weened  ye  were  a  yeoman  truly.  *thought 

Ye  have  a  manne's  shape  as  well  as  I 

Have  ye  then  a  figure  determinate 

In  helle,  where  ye  be  in  your  estate?"*  *at  home 

"Nay,  certainly,"  quoth  he,  there  have  we  none. 

But  when  us  liketh  we  can  take  us  one. 

Or  elles  make  you  seem*  that  we  be  shape  *believe 

Sometime  like  a  man,  or  like  an  ape; 

Or  like  an  angel  can  I  ride  or  go; 

It  is  no  wondrous  thing  though  it  be  so, 

A  lousy  juggler  can  deceive  thee. 

And  pardie,  yet  can  I  more  craft*  than  he."  *skill,  cunning 

"Why,"  quoth  the  Sompnour,  "ride  ye  then  or  gon 

In  sundry  shapes  and  not  always  in  one?" 

"For  we,"  quoth  he,  "will  us  in  such  form  make. 

As  most  is  able  our  prey  for  to  take." 

"What  maketh  you  to  have  all  this  labour?" 

"Full  many  a  cause,  leve  Sir  Sompnour," 

Saide  this  fiend.  "But  all  thing  hath  a  time; 

The  day  is  short  and  it  is  passed  prime. 

And  yet  have  I  won  nothing  in  this  day; 

I  will  intend*  to  winning,  if  I  may,  *^Ppty  niyself 

And  not  intend  our  thinges  to  declare: 


223 


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225 


For,  brother  mine,  thy  wit  is  all  too  bare 

To  understand,  although  I  told  them  thee. 

*But  for*  thou  askest  why  laboure  we:  *because* 

For  sometimes  we  be  Godde's  instruments 

And  meanes  to  do  his  commandements. 

When  that  him  list,  upon  his  creatures. 

In  divers  acts  and  in  divers  figures: 

Withoute  him  we  have  no  might  certain. 

If  that  him  list  to  stande  thereagain.*  *against  it 

And  sometimes,  at  our  prayer  have  we  leave 

Only  the  body,  not  the  soul,  to  grieve: 

Witness  on  Job,  whom  that  we  did  full  woe. 

And  sometimes  have  we  might  on  both  the  two,  — 

This  is  to  say,  on  soul  and  body  eke. 

And  sometimes  be  we  suffer'd  for  to  seek 

Upon  a  man  and  do  his  soul  unrest 

And  not  his  body,  and  all  is  for  the  best. 

When  he  withstandeth  our  temptation. 

It  is  a  cause  of  his  salvation. 

Albeit  that  it  was  not  our  intent 

He  should  be  safe,  but  that  we  would  him  hent.*  *catch 

And  sometimes  be  we  servants  unto  man. 

As  to  the  archbishop  Saint  Dunstan, 

And  to  th'apostle  servant  eke  was  I." 

"Yet  tell  me,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "faithfully. 

Make  ye  you  newe  bodies  thus  alway 

Of  th'  elements?"  The  fiend  answered,  "Nay: 

Sometimes  we  feign,  and  sometimes  we  arise 

With  deade  bodies,  in  full  sundry  wise. 

And  speak  as  reas'nably,  and  fair,  and  well. 

As  to  the  Pythoness<9>  did  Samuel: 

And  yet  will  some  men  say  it  was  not  he. 

I  *do  no  force  oP  your  divinity.  *set  no  value  upon* 

But  one  thing  warn  I  thee,  I  will  not  jape,*  jest 


*assuredly  know* 


*learn 

*learn  to  understand 
what  I  have  said* 
*briskly 


Thou  wilt  *algates  weet*  how  we  be  shape: 

Thou  shalt  hereafter  ward,  my  brother  dear. 

Come,  where  thee  needeth  not  of  me  to  lear.'' 

For  thou  shalt  by  thine  own  experience 

*Conne  in  a  chair  to  rede  of  this  sentence,* 

Better  than  Virgil,  while  he  was  alive. 

Or  Dante  also.  <10>  Now  let  us  ride  blive,* 

For  I  will  holde  company  with  thee. 

Till  it  be  so  that  thou  forsake  me." 

"Nay,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "that  shall  ne'er  betide. 

I  am  a  yeoman,  that  is  known  full  wide; 

My  trothe  will  I  hold,  as  in  this  case; 

For  though  thou  wert  the  devil  Satanas, 

My  trothe  will  I  hold  to  thee,  my  brother. 

As  I  have  sworn,  and  each  of  us  to  other. 

For  to  be  true  brethren  in  this  case. 

And  both  we  go  *abouten  our  purchase.*  *seeking  what  we 

Take  thou  thy  part,  what  that  men  will  thee  give,  may  pick  up* 

And  I  shall  mine,  thus  may  we  bothe  live. 

And  if  that  any  of  us  have  more  than  other. 

Let  him  be  true,  and  part  it  with  his  brother." 

"I  grante,"  quoth  the  devil,  "by  my  fay." 

And  with  that  word  they  rode  forth  their  way. 

And  right  at  th'ent'ring  of  the  towne's  end. 

To  which  this  Sompnour  shope*  him  for  to  wend,* 

They  saw  a  cart,  that  charged  was  with  hay. 

Which  that  a  carter  drove  forth  on  his  way. 

Deep  was  the  way,  for  which  the  carte  stood: 

The  carter  smote,  and  cried  as  he  were  wood,* 

"Heit  Scot!  heit  Brok!  what,  spare  ye  for  the  stones? 

The  fiend  (quoth  he)  you  fetch  body  and  bones. 

As  farforthly*  as  ever  ye  were  foal'd,  *sure 

So  muche  woe  as  I  have  with  you  tholed.*  *endured  <  1 1  > 

The  devil  have  all,  horses,  and  cart,  and  hay." 


*shaped  **go 


*mad 


226 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Sompnour  said,  "Here  shall  we  have  a  prey," 

And  near  the  fiend  he  drew,  *as  nought  ne  were,*  *as  if  nothing 

Full  privily,  and  rowned*  in  his  ear:  were  the  matter* 

"Hearken,  my  brother,  hearken,  by  thy  faith,  *whispered 

Hearest  thou  not,  how  that  the  carter  saith? 

Hent*  it  anon,  for  he  hath  giv'n  it  thee,  *seize 

Both  hay  and  cart,  and  eke  his  capels*  three."  *horses  <  12> 

"Nay,"  quoth  the  devil,  "God  wot,  never  a  deal,*  whit 

It  is  not  his  intent,  trust  thou  me  well; 

Ask  him  thyself,  if  thou  not  trowest*  me,  *believest 

Or  elles  stint*  a  while  and  thou  shalt  see."  *stop 

The  carter  thwack'd  his  horses  on  the  croup. 

And  they  began  to  drawen  and  to  stoop. 

"Heit  now,"  quoth  he;  "there,  Jesus  Christ  you  bless. 

And  all  his  handiwork,  both  more  and  less! 

That  was  well  twight,*  mine  owen  liart,**  boy,         *pulled  **grey<  13  > 

I  pray  God  save  thy  body,  and  Saint  Loy! 

Now  is  my  cart  out  of  the  slough,  pardie." 

"Lo,  brother,"  quoth  the  fiend,  "what  told  I  thee? 

Here  may  ye  see,  mine  owen  deare  brother. 

The  churl  spake  one  thing,  but  he  thought  another. 

Let  us  go  forth  abouten  our  voyage; 

Here  win  I  nothing  upon  this  carriage." 


When  that  they  came  somewhat  out  of  the  town. 

This  Sompnour  to  his  brother  gan  to  rown; 

"Brother,"  quoth  he,  "here  wons*  an  old  rebeck,<14> 

That  had  almost  as  lief  to  lose  her  neck. 

As  for  to  give  a  penny  of  her  good. 

I  will  have  twelvepence,  though  that  she  be  wood,* 

Or  I  will  summon  her  to  our  office; 

And  yet,  God  wot,  of  her  know  I  no  vice. 

But  for  thou  canst  not,  as  in  this  country, 

Winne  thy  cost,  take  here  example  of  me." 


*dwells 


*mad 


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This  Sompnour  clapped  at  the  widow's  gate: 

"Come  out,"  he  said,  "thou  olde  very  trate;*  *trot  <15> 

I  trow  thou  hast  some  friar  or  priest  with  thee." 

"Who  clappeth?"  said  this  wife;  "benedicite, 

God  save  you.  Sir,  what  is  your  sweete  will?" 

"I  have,"  quoth  he,  "of  summons  here  a  bill. 

Up*  pain  of  cursing,  looke  that  thou  be  *upon 

To-morrow  before  our  archdeacon's  knee. 

To  answer  to  the  court  of  certain  things." 

"Now  Lord,"  quoth  she,  "Christ  Jesus,  king  of  kings. 

So  wisly*  helpe  me,  *as  I  not  may*  *surely  *as  I  cannot* 

I  have  been  sick,  and  that  full  many  a  day. 

I  may  not  go  so  far,"  quoth  she,  "nor  ride. 

But  I  be  dead,  so  pricketh  it  my  side. 

May  I  not  ask  a  libel.  Sir  Sompnour, 

And  answer  there  by  my  procuratour 

To  such  thing  as  men  would  appose*  me?"  *accuse 

"Yes,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "pay  anon,  let  see, 

Twelvepence  to  me,  and  I  will  thee  acquit. 

I  shall  no  profit  have  thereby  but  lit:*  *little 

My  master  hath  the  profit  and  not  L 

Come  off,  and  let  me  ride  hastily; 

Give  me  twelvepence,  I  may  no  longer  tarry." 


227 


"Twelvepence!"  quoth  she;  "now  lady  Sainte  Mary 

So  wisly*  help  me  out  of  care  and  sin,  *surely 

This  wide  world  though  that  I  should  it  win. 

No  have  I  not  twelvepence  within  my  hold. 

Ye  know  full  well  that  I  am  poor  and  old; 

*Kithe  your  almes*  upon  me  poor  wretch."  *show  your  charity* 

"Nay  then,"  quoth  he,  "the  foule  fiend  me  fetch. 

If  I  excuse  thee,  though  thou  should'st  be  spilt."*  *ruined 

"Alas!"  quoth  she,  "God  wot,  I  have  no  guilt." 

"Pay  me,"  quoth  he,  "or,  by  the  sweet  Saint  Anne, 


228 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


As  I  will  bear  away  thy  newe  pan 

For  debte,  which  thou  owest  me  of  old,  — 

When  that  thou  madest  thine  husband  cuckold,  — 

I  paid  at  home  for  thy  correction." 

"Thou  liest,"  quoth  she,  "by  my  salvation; 

Never  was  I  ere  now,  widow  or  wife, 

Summon'd  unto  your  court  in  all  my  life; 

Nor  never  I  was  but  of  my  body  true. 

Unto  the  devil  rough  and  black  of  hue 

Give  I  thy  body  and  my  pan  also." 

And  when  the  devil  heard  her  curse  so 

Upon  her  knees,  he  said  in  this  mannere; 

"Now,  Mabily,  mine  owen  mother  dear. 

Is  this  your  will  in  earnest  that  ye  say?" 

"The  devil,"  quoth  she,  "so  fetch  him  ere  he  dey* 

And  pan  and  all,  but*  he  will  him  repent." 

"Nay,  olde  stoat,*  that  is  not  mine  intent," 

Quoth  this  Sompnour,  "for  to  repente  me 

For  any  thing  that  I  have  had  of  thee; 

I  would  I  had  thy  smock  and  every  cloth." 

"Now,  brother,"  quoth  the  devil,  "be  not  wroth; 

Thy  body  and  this  pan  be  mine  by  right. 

Thou  shalt  with  me  to  helle  yet  tonight. 

Where  thou  shalt  knowen  of  our  privity* 

More  than  a  master  of  divinity." 


*die 
*unless 
*polecat 


secrets 


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229 


After  the  text  of  Christ,  and  Paul,  and  John, 

And  of  our  other  doctors  many  a  one. 

Such  paines,  that  your  heartes  might  agrise,* 

Albeit  so,  that  no  tongue  may  devise,*  — 

Though  that  I  might  a  thousand  winters  tell,  — 

The  pains  of  thilke*  cursed  house  of  hell 

But  for  to  keep  us  from  that  cursed  place 

Wake  we,  and  pray  we  Jesus,  of  his  grace. 

So  keep  us  from  the  tempter,  Satanas. 

Hearken  this  word,  beware  as  in  this  case. 

The  lion  sits  *in  his  await*  alway 

To  slay  the  innocent,  if  that  he  may. 

Disposen  aye  your  heartes  to  withstond 

The  fiend  that  would  you  make  thrall  and  bond; 

He  may  not  tempte  you  over  your  might. 

For  Christ  will  be  your  champion  and  your  knight; 

And  pray,  that  this  our  Sompnour  him  repent 

Of  his  misdeeds  ere  that  the  fiend  him  hent.* 


*be  horrified 
*relate 

*that 


*on  the  watch*  <16> 


And  with  that  word  the  foule  fiend  him  hent.* 
Body  and  soul,  he  with  the  devil  went. 
Where  as  the  Sompnours  have  their  heritage; 
And  God,  that  maked  after  his  image 
Mankinde,  save  and  guide  us  all  and  some. 
And  let  this  Sompnour  a  good  man  become. 
Lordings,  I  could  have  told  you  (quoth  this  Frere), 
Had  I  had  leisure  for  this  Sompnour  here. 


*seized 


230 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


ne  (pf(my[}noim6  ty^aie. 


The  Prologue. 

The  Sompnour  in  his  stirrups  high  he  stood, 

Upon  this  Friar  his  hearte  was  so  wood,* 

That  like  an  aspen  leaf  he  quoke*  for  ire: 

"Lordings,"  quoth  he,  "but  one  thing  I  desire; 

I  you  beseech,  that  of  your  courtesy. 

Since  ye  have  heard  this  false  Friar  lie. 

As  suffer  me  I  may  my  tale  tell 

This  Friar  boasteth  that  he  knoweth  hell. 

And,  God  it  wot,  that  is  but  little  wonder. 

Friars  and  fiends  be  but  little  asunder. 

For,  pardie,  ye  have  often  time  heard  tell. 

How  that  a  friar  ravish'd  was  to  hell 

In  spirit  ones  by  a  visioun. 

And,  as  an  angel  led  him  up  and  down. 

To  shew  him  all  the  paines  that  there  were. 

In  all  the  place  saw  he  not  a  frere; 

Of  other  folk  he  saw  enough  in  woe. 

Unto  the  angel  spake  the  friar  tho;* 

'Now,  Sir,'  quoth  he,  'have  friars  such  a  grace. 

That  none  of  them  shall  come  into  this  place?' 

'Yes'  quoth  the  angel;  'many  a  millioun:' 

And  unto  Satanas  he  led  him  down. 

'And  now  hath  Satanas,'  said  he,  'a  tail 


*furious 
*quaked,  trembled 


*then 


Immediately*  <2> 


*in  a  crowd* 


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Broader  than  of  a  carrack<l>  is  the  sail. 
Hold  up  thy  tail,  thou  Satanas,'  quoth  he, 
'Shew  forth  thine  erse,  and  let  the  friar  see 
Where  is  the  nest  of  friars  in  this  place.' 
And  *less  than  half  a  furlong  way  of  space* 
Right  so  as  bees  swarmen  out  of  a  hive. 
Out  of  the  devil's  erse  there  gan  to  drive 
A  twenty  thousand  friars  *on  a  rout.* 
And  throughout  hell  they  swarmed  all  about. 
And  came  again,  as  fast  as  they  may  gon. 
And  in  his  erse  they  creeped  every  one: 
He  clapt  his  tail  again,  and  lay  full  still. 
This  friar,  when  he  looked  had  his  fill 
Upon  the  torments  of  that  sorry  place. 
His  spirit  God  restored  of  his  grace 
Into  his  body  again,  and  he  awoke; 
But  natheless  for  feare  yet  he  quoke. 
So  was  the  devil's  erse  aye  in  his  mind; 
That  is  his  heritage,  *of  very  kind* 
God  save  you  alle,  save  this  cursed  Frere; 
My  prologue  will  I  end  in  this  mannere. 


231 


^by  his  very  nature* 


The  Tale. 

Lordings,  there  is  in  Yorkshire,  as  I  guess, 

A  marshy  country  called  Holderness, 

In  which  there  went  a  limitour  about 

To  preach,  and  eke  to  beg,  it  is  no  doubt. 

And  so  befell  that  on  a  day  this  frere 

Had  preached  at  a  church  in  his  mannere. 

And  specially,  above  every  thing. 

Excited  he  the  people  in  his  preaching 

To  trentals,  <1>  and  to  give,  for  Godde's  sake. 


232 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Wherewith  men  mighte  holy  houses  make, 

There  as  divine  service  is  honour 'd, 

Not  there  as  it  is  wasted  and  devour 'd, 

Nor  where  it  needeth  not  for  to  be  given, 

As  to  possessioners,  <2>  that  may  liven. 

Thanked  be  God,  in  wealth  and  abundance. 

"Trentals,"  said  he,  "deliver  from  penance 

Their  friendes'  soules,  as  well  old  as  young. 

Yea,  when  that  they  be  hastily  y-sung,  — 

Not  for  to  hold  a  priest  jolly  and  gay. 

He  singeth  not  but  one  mass  in  a  day 

"Deliver  out,"  quoth  he,  "anon  the  souls. 

Full  hard  it  is,  with  flesh-hook  or  with  owls* 

To  be  y-clawed,  or  to  burn  or  bake:  <3> 

Now  speed  you  hastily,  for  Christe's  sake." 

And  when  this  friar  had  said  all  his  intent. 

With  qui  cum  patre<4>  forth  his  way  he  went. 

When  folk  in  church  had  giv'n  him  what  them  lest; 

He  went  his  way,  no  longer  would  he  rest. 

With  scrip  and  tipped  staff,  *y-tucked  high: 

In  every  house  he  gan  to  pore*  and  pry. 

And  begged  meal  and  cheese,  or  elles  corn. 

His  fellow  had  a  staff  tipped  with  horn, 

A  pair  of  tables*  all  of  ivory. 

And  a  pointel*  y-polish'd  fetisly,** 

And  wrote  alway  the  names,  as  he  stood; 

Of  all  the  folk  that  gave  them  any  good, 

Askaunce*  that  he  woulde  for  them  pray. 

"Give  us  a  bushel  wheat,  or  malt,  or  rey* 

A  Godde's  kichel,*  or  a  trip**  of  cheese. 

Or  elles  what  you  list,  we  may  not  chese;* 

A  Godde's  halfpenny,  <6>  or  a  mass  penny; 

Or  give  us  of  your  brawn,  if  ye  have  any; 

A  dagon*  of  your  blanket,  leve  dame. 


*awls 


*pleased 


with  his  robe  tucked 
up  high*  *peer 


Writing  tablets 
*pencil  **daintily 


*see  note  <5> 
*rye 
little  cake<6>  **scrap 
*choose 


remnant 


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Our  sister  dear,  —  lo,  here  I  write  your  name, — 

Bacon  or  beef,  or  such  thing  as  ye  fmd." 

A  sturdy  harlot*  went  them  aye  behind,  *manservant  <7> 

That  was  their  hoste's  man,  and  bare  a  sack. 

And  what  men  gave  them,  laid  it  on  his  back 

And  when  that  he  was  out  at  door,  anon 

He  *planed  away*  the  names  every  one,  *rubbed  out* 

That  he  before  had  written  in  his  tables: 

He  served  them  with  nifles*  and  with  fables.  —  *silly  tales 

"Nay,  there  thou  liest,  thou  Sompnour,"  quoth  the  Frere. 
"Peace,"  quoth  our  Host,  "for  Christe's  mother  dear; 
Tell  forth  thy  tale,  and  spare  it  not  at  all." 
"So  thrive  I,"  quoth  this  Sompnour,  "so  I  shall."  — 

So  long  he  went  from  house  to  house,  till  he 

Came  to  a  house,  where  he  was  wont  to  be 

Refreshed  more  than  in  a  hundred  places 

Sick  lay  the  husband  man,  whose  that  the  place  is. 

Bed-rid  upon  a  couche  low  he  lay: 

*"Deus  hie,"*  quoth  he;  "O  Thomas  friend,  good  day,"       *God  be  here* 

Said  this  friar,  all  courteously  and  soft. 

"Thomas,"  quoth  he,  "God  *yield  it  you,*  full  oft        *reward  you  for* 

Have  I  upon  this  bench  fared  full  well. 

Here  have  I  eaten  many  a  merry  meal." 

And  from  the  bench  he  drove  away  the  cat. 

And  laid  adown  his  potent*  and  his  hat,  *staff  <8> 

And  eke  his  scrip,  and  sat  himself  adown: 

His  fellow  was  y- walked  into  town 

Forth  with  his  knave,*  into  that  hostelry  *servant 

Where  as  he  shope*  him  that  night  to  lie.  *shaped,  purposed 


"O  deare  master,"  quoth  this  sicke  man, 
"How  have  ye  fared  since  that  March  began? 


234 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


I  saw  you  not  this  fortenight  and  more." 

"God  wot,"  quoth  he,  "labour 'd  have  I  full  sore; 

And  specially  for  thy  salvation 

Have  I  said  many  a  precious  orison. 

And  for  mine  other  friendes,  God  them  bless. 

I  have  this  day  been  at  your  church  at  mess,* 

And  said  sermon  after  my  simple  wit. 

Not  all  after  the  text  of  Holy  Writ; 

For  it  is  hard  to  you,  as  I  suppose. 

And  therefore  will  I  teach  you  aye  the  glose.* 

Glosing  is  a  full  glorious  thing  certain. 

For  letter  slayeth,  as  we  clerkes*  sayn. 

There  have  I  taught  them  to  be  charitable. 

And  spend  their  good  where  it  is  reasonable. 

And  there  I  saw  our  dame;  where  is  she?" 

"Yonder  I  trow  that  in  the  yard  she  be," 

Saide  this  man;  "and  she  will  come  anon." 

"Hey  master,  welcome  be  ye  by  Saint  John," 

Saide  this  wife;  "how  fare  ye  heartily?" 


*gloss,  comment 
*scholars 


This  friar  riseth  up  full  courteously. 

And  her  embraceth  *in  his  armes  narrow,*  *closely 

And  kiss'th  her  sweet,  and  chirketh  as  a  sparrow 

With  his  lippes:  "Dame,"  quoth  he,  "right  well. 

As  he  that  is  your  servant  every  deal.*  *whit 

Thanked  be  God,  that  gave  you  soul  and  life. 

Yet  saw  I  not  this  day  so  fair  a  wife 

In  all  the  churche,  God  so  save  me," 

"Yea,  God  amend  defaultes.  Sir,"  quoth  she; 

"Algates*  welcome  be  ye,  by  my  fay."  *always 

"Grand  mercy.  Dame;  that  have  I  found  alway. 

But  of  your  greate  goodness,  by  your  leave, 

I  woulde  pray  you  that  ye  not  you  grieve, 

I  will  with  Thomas  speak  *a  little  throw:*  *a  little  while* 


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235 


These  curates  be  so  negligent  and  slow 

To  grope  tenderly  a  conscience. 

In  shrift*  and  preaching  is  my  diligence  *confession 

And  study  in  Peter  s  wordes  and  in  Paul's; 

I  walk  and  fishe  Christian  menne's  souls. 

To  yield  our  Lord  Jesus  his  proper  rent; 

To  spread  his  word  is  alle  mine  intent." 

"Now  by  your  faith,  O  deare  Sir,"  quoth  she, 

"Chide  him  right  well,  for  sainte  charity. 

He  is  aye  angry  as  is  a  pismire,*  *ant 

Though  that  he  have  all  that  he  can  desire. 

Though  I  him  wrie*  at  night,  and  make  him  warm,  *cover 

And  ov'r  him  lay  my  leg  and  eke  mine  arm. 

He  groaneth  as  our  boar  that  lies  in  sty: 

Other  disport  of  him  right  none  have  I, 

I  may  not  please  him  in  no  manner  case." 

"O  Thomas,  *je  vous  dis,*  Thomas,  Thomas,  *I  tell  you* 

This  *maketh  the  fiend,*  this  must  be  amended.     *is  the  devil's  work* 

Ire  is  a  thing  that  high  God  hath  defended,*  *forbidden 

And  thereof  will  I  speak  a  word  or  two." 

"Now,  master,"  quoth  the  wife,  "ere  that  I  go. 

What  will  ye  dine?  I  will  go  thereabout." 

"Now,  Dame,"  quoth  he,  "je  vous  dis  sans  doute,  <9> 

Had  I  not  of  a  capon  but  the  liver. 

And  of  your  white  bread  not  but  a  shiver,*  *thin  slice 

And  after  that  a  roasted  pigge's  head, 

(But  I  would  that  for  me  no  beast  were  dead,) 

Then  had  I  with  you  homely  suffisance. 

I  am  a  man  of  little  sustenance. 

My  spirit  hath  its  fost'ring  in  the  Bible. 

My  body  is  aye  so  ready  and  penible*  *painstaking 

To  wake,*  that  my  stomach  is  destroy 'd.  *watch 

I  pray  you.  Dame,  that  ye  be  not  annoy 'd. 

Though  I  so  friendly  you  my  counsel  shew; 


236 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


By  God,  I  would  have  told  it  but  to  few." 
"Now,  Sir,"  quoth  she,  "but  one  word  ere  I  go; 
My  child  is  dead  within  these  weeke's  two. 
Soon  after  that  ye  went  out  of  this  town." 


"His  death  saw  I  by  revelatioun," 

Said  this  friar,  "at  home  in  our  dortour.*  *dormitory  <  10> 

I  dare  well  say,  that  less  than  half  an  hour 

Mter  his  death,  I  saw  him  borne  to  bliss 

In  mine  vision,  so  God  me  wiss.*  *direct 

So  did  our  sexton,  and  our  fermerere,*  *infirmary-keeper 

That  have  been  true  friars  fifty  year,  — 

They  may  now,  God  be  thanked  of  his  love. 

Make  their  jubilee,  and  walk  above.  <  12  > 

And  up  I  rose,  and  all  our  convent  eke. 

With  many  a  teare  trilling  on  my  cheek, 

Withoute  noise  or  clattering  of  bells, 

Te  Deum  was  our  song,  and  nothing  else. 

Save  that  to  Christ  I  bade  an  orison. 

Thanking  him  of  my  revelation. 

For,  Sir  and  Dame,  truste  me  right  well. 

Our  orisons  be  more  effectuel. 

And  more  we  see  of  Christe's  secret  things. 

Than  *borel  folk,*  although  that  they  be  kings.  *laymen*<  13  > 

We  live  in  povert',  and  in  abstinence. 

And  borel  folk  in  riches  and  dispence 

Of  meat  and  drink,  and  in  their  foul  delight. 

We  have  this  worlde's  lust*  all  in  despight**      *  pleasure  **contempt 

Lazar  and  Dives  lived  diversely. 

And  diverse  guerdon*  hadde  they  thereby.  *reward 

Whoso  will  pray,  he  must  fast  and  be  clean. 

And  fat  his  soul,  and  keep  his  body  lean 

We  fare  as  saith  th'  apostle;  cloth*  and  food  *clothing 

Suffice  us,  although  they  be  not  full  good. 


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237 


The  cleanness  and  the  fasting  of  us  freres 

Maketh  that  Christ  accepteth  our  prayeres. 

Lo,  Moses  forty  days  and  forty  night 

Fasted,  ere  that  the  high  God  full  of  might 

Spake  with  him  in  the  mountain  of  Sinai: 

With  empty  womb*  of  fasting  many  a  day 

Received  he  the  lawe,  that  was  writ 

With  Godde's  finger;  and  Eli,<14>  well  ye  wit,^ 

In  Mount  Horeb,  ere  he  had  any  speech 

With  highe  God,  that  is  our  lives  leech,* 

He  fasted  long,  and  was  in  contemplance. 

Aaron,  that  had  the  temple  in  governance. 

And  eke  the  other  priestes  every  one. 

Into  the  temple  when  they  shoulde  gon 

To  praye  for  the  people,  and  do  service. 

They  woulde  drinken  in  no  manner  wise 

No  drinke,  which  that  might  them  drunken  make. 

But  there  in  abstinence  pray  and  wake. 

Lest  that  they  died:  take  heed  what  I  say  — 

But*  they  be  sober  that  for  the  people  pray  — 

Ware  that,  I  say  —  no  more:  for  it  sufficeth. 

Our  Lord  Jesus,  as  Holy  Writ  deviseth,* 

Gave  us  example  of  fasting  and  prayeres: 

Therefore  we  mendicants,  we  sely*  freres. 

Be  wedded  to  povert'  and  continence. 

To  charity,  humbless,  and  abstinence. 

To  persecution  for  righteousness. 

To  weeping,  misericorde,*  and  to  cleanness. 

And  therefore  may  ye  see  that  our  prayeres 

(I  speak  of  us,  we  mendicants,  we  freres). 

Be  to  the  highe  God  more  acceptable 

Than  youres,  with  your  feastes  at  your  table. 

From  Paradise  first,  if  I  shall  not  lie. 

Was  man  out  chased  for  his  gluttony. 


*stomach 


*know 


physician,  healer 


*unless 


narrates 


*simple,  lowly 


compassion 


238 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  chaste  was  man  in  Paradise  certain. 

But  hark  now,  Thomas,  what  I  shall  thee  sayn; 

I  have  no  text  of  it,  as  I  suppose. 

But  I  shall  fmd  it  in  *a  manner  glose;*  *a  kind  of  comment* 

That  specially  our  sweet  Lord  Jesus 

Spake  this  of  friars,  when  he  saide  thus, 

'Blessed  be  they  that  poor  in  spirit  be' 

And  so  forth  all  the  gospel  may  ye  see. 

Whether  it  be  liker  our  profession. 

Or  theirs  that  swimmen  in  possession; 

Fy  on  their  pomp,  and  on  their  gluttony, 

And  on  their  lewedness!  I  them  defy. 

Me  thinketh  they  be  likeJovinian,<15> 

Fat  as  a  whale,  and  walking  as  a  swan; 

All  vinolent*  as  bottle  in  the  spence;**       *full  of  wine  **store-room 

Their  prayer  is  of  full  great  reverence; 

When  they  for  soules  say  the  Psalm  of  David, 

Lo,  'Buf  they  say.  Cor  meum  eructavit.<16> 

Who  follow  Christe's  gospel  and  his  lore*  *doctrine 

But  we,  that  humble  be,  and  chaste,  and  pore,*  *poor 

Workers  of  Godde's  word,  not  auditours?*  *hearers 

Therefore  right  as  a  hawk  *upon  a  sours*  *rising* 

Up  springs  into  the  air,  right  so  prayeres 

Of  charitable  and  chaste  busy  freres 

*Make  their  sours*  to  Godde's  eares  two.  *rise* 

Thomas,  Thomas,  so  may  I  ride  or  go. 

And  by  that  lord  that  called  is  Saint  Ive, 

*N'ere  thou  our  brother,  shouldest  thou  not  thrive;*     *see  note  <  17>* 

In  our  chapiter  pray  we  day  and  night 

To  Christ,  that  he  thee  sende  health  and  might. 

Thy  body  for  to  *wielde  hastily*  *soon  be  able  to  move  freely* 


"God  wot,"  quoth  he,  "nothing  thereof  feel  I; 
So  help  me  Christ,  as  I  in  fewe  years 


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239 


friars  of  various  sorts* 
*better 
*spent 
*gone 


Have  spended  upon  *divers  manner  freres* 

Full  many  a  pound,  yet  fare  I  ne'er  the  bet; 

Certain  my  good  have  I  almost  beset:* 

Farewell  my  gold,  for  it  is  all  ago."* 

The  friar  answer'd,  "O  Thomas,  dost  thou  so? 

What  needest  thou  diverse  friars  to  seech?*  *seek 

What  needeth  him  that  hath  a  perfect  leech,*  *healer 

To  seeken  other  leeches  in  the  town? 

Your  inconstance  is  your  confusioun. 

Hold  ye  then  me,  or  elles  our  convent. 

To  praye  for  you  insufficient? 

Thomas,  that  jape*  it  is  not  worth  a  mite;  *jest 

Your  malady  is  *for  we  have  too  lite.*  *because  we  have 

Ah,  give  that  convent  half  a  quarter  oats;  too  little* 

And  give  that  convent  four  and  twenty  groats; 

And  give  that  friar  a  penny,  and  let  him  go! 

Nay,  nay,  Thomas,  it  may  no  thing  be  so. 

What  is  a  farthing  worth  parted  on  twelve? 

Lo,  each  thing  that  is  oned*  in  himselve  *made  one,  united 

Is  more  strong  than  when  it  is  y-scatter'd. 

Thomas,  of  me  thou  shalt  not  be  y-flatter'd. 

Thou  wouldest  have  our  labour  all  for  nought. 

The  highe  God,  that  all  this  world  hath  wrought, 

Saith,  that  the  workman  worthy  is  his  hire 

Thomas,  nought  of  your  treasure  I  desire 

As  for  myself,  but  that  all  our  convent 

To  pray  for  you  is  aye  so  diligent: 

And  for  to  builde  Christe's  owen  church. 

Thomas,  if  ye  will  learne  for  to  wirch,*  *work 

Of  building  up  of  churches  may  ye  fmd 

If  it  be  good,  in  Thomas'  life  of  Ind.  <  1 8  > 

Ye  lie  here  full  of  anger  and  of  ire. 

With  which  the  devil  sets  your  heart  on  fire. 

And  chide  here  this  holy  innocent 


240 


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Your  wife,  that  is  so  meek  and  patient. 

And  therefore  trow*  me,  Thomas,  if  thee  lest,**         *believe  **please 

Ne  strive  not  with  thy  wife,  as  for  the  best. 

And  bear  this  word  away  now,  by  thy  faith. 

Touching  such  thing,  lo,  what  the  wise  man  saith: 

'Within  thy  house  be  thou  no  lion; 

To  thy  subjects  do  none  oppression; 

Nor  make  thou  thine  acquaintance  for  to  flee.' 

And  yet,  Thomas,  eftsoones*  charge  I  thee,  *again 

Beware  from  ire  that  in  thy  bosom  sleeps. 

Ware  from  the  serpent,  that  so  slily  creeps 

Under  the  grass,  and  stingeth  subtilly. 

Beware,  my  son,  and  hearken  patiently. 

That  twenty  thousand  men  have  lost  their  lives 

For  striving  with  their  lemans*  and  their  wives.  *mistresses 

Now  since  ye  have  so  holy  and  meek  a  wife. 

What  needeth  you,  Thomas,  to  make  strife? 

There  is,  y-wis,*  no  serpent  so  cruel,  *certainly 

When  men  tread  on  his  tail  nor  half  so  fell,*  *fierce 

As  woman  is,  when  she  hath  caught  an  ire; 

Very*  vengeance  is  then  all  her  desire.  *pure,  only 

Ire  is  a  sin,  one  of  the  greate  seven. 

Abominable  to  the  God  of  heaven. 

And  to  himself  it  is  destruction. 

This  every  lewed*  vicar  and  parson  *ignorant 

Can  say,  how  ire  engenders  homicide; 

Ire  is  in  sooth  th'  executor*  of  pride.  *executioner 

I  could  of  ire  you  say  so  muche  sorrow. 

My  tale  shoulde  last  until  to-morrow. 

And  therefore  pray  I  God  both  day  and  ight. 

An  irous*  man  God  send  him  little  might.  *passionate 

It  is  great  harm,  and  certes  great  pity 

To  set  an  irous  man  in  high  degree. 


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"Whilom*  there  was  an  irous  potestate,**  *once  **judge<  19> 

As  saith  Senec,  that  during  his  estate*  *term  of  office 

Upon  a  day  out  rode  knightes  two; 

And,  as  fortune  would  that  it  were  so. 

The  one  of  them  came  home,  the  other  not. 

Anon  the  knight  before  the  judge  is  brought. 

That  saide  thus;  Thou  hast  thy  fellow  slain. 

For  which  I  doom  thee  to  the  death  certain.' 

And  to  another  knight  commanded  he; 

'Go,  lead  him  to  the  death,  I  charge  thee.' 

And  happened,  as  they  went  by  the  way 

Toward  the  place  where  as  he  should  dey*  *die 

The  knight  came,  which  men  weened*  had  been  dead  *thought 

Then  thoughte  they  it  was  the  beste  rede*  *counsel 

To  lead  them  both  unto  the  judge  again. 

They  saide,  'Lord,  the  knight  hath  not  y-slain 

His  fellow;  here  he  standeth  whole  alive.' 

'Ye  shall  be  dead,'  quoth  he,  'so  may  I  thrive. 

That  is  to  say,  both  one,  and  two,  and  three.' 

And  to  the  firste  knight  right  thus  spake  he: 

'I  damned  thee,  thou  must  algate*  be  dead:  *at  all  events 

And  thou  also  must  needes  lose  thine  head. 

For  thou  the  cause  art  why  thy  fellow  dieth.' 

And  to  the  thirde  knight  right  thus  he  sayeth, 

'Thou  hast  not  done  that  I  commanded  thee.' 

And  thus  he  did  do  slay  them  alle  three. 


Irous  Cambyses  was  eke  dronkelew,* 

And  aye  delighted  him  to  be  a  shrew* 

And  so  befell,  a  lord  of  his  meinie,* 

That  loved  virtuous  morality. 

Said  on  a  day  betwixt  them  two  right  thus: 

'A  lord  is  lost,  if  he  be  vicious. 

[An  irous  man  is  like  a  frantic  beast. 


*a  drunkard 
*vicious,  ill-tempered 
*suite 


242 


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times 


*caused 


In  which  there  is  of  wisdom  *none  arrest*;]  *no  control* 

And  drunkenness  is  eke  a  foul  record 

Of  any  man,  and  namely*  of  a  lord.  *especially 

There  is  full  many  an  eye  and  many  an  ear 

*Awaiting  on*  a  lord,  he  knows  not  where.  *watching 

For  Godde's  love,  drink  more  attemperly:*  *temperately 

Wine  maketh  man  to  lose  wretchedly 

His  mind,  and  eke  his  limbes  every  one.' 

The  reverse  shalt  thou  see,'  quoth  he,  'anon. 

And  prove  it  by  thine  own  experience. 

That  wine  doth  to  folk  no  such  offence. 

There  is  no  wine  bereaveth  me  my  might 

Of  hand,  nor  foot,  nor  of  mine  eyen  sight.' 

And  for  despite  he  dranke  muche  more 

A  hundred  part*  than  he  had  done  before. 

And  right  anon  this  cursed  irous  wretch 

This  knighte's  sone  let*  before  him  fetch. 

Commanding  him  he  should  before  him  stand: 

And  suddenly  he  took  his  bow  in  hand. 

And  up  the  string  he  pulled  to  his  ear. 

And  with  an  arrow  slew  the  child  right  there. 

'Now  whether  have  I  a  sicker*  hand  or  non?'** 

Quoth  he;  'Is  all  my  might  and  mind  agone? 

Hath  wine  bereaved  me  mine  eyen  sight?' 

Why  should  I  tell  the  answer  of  the  knight? 

His  son  was  slain,  there  is  no  more  to  say. 

Beware  therefore  with  lordes  how  ye  play,*  *use  freedom 

Sing  placebo;<20>  and  I  shall  if  I  can, 

*But  if  it  be  unto  a  poore  man:  *unless 

To  a  poor  man  men  should  his  vices  tell. 

But  not  t'  a  lord,  though  he  should  go  to  hell. 

Lo,  irous  Cyrus,  thilke*  Persian,  *that 

How  he  destroy 'd  the  river  of  Gisen,<21  > 

For  that  a  horse  of  his  was  drowned  therein. 


When  that  he  wente  Babylon  to  win: 

He  made  that  the  river  was  so  small. 

That  women  mighte  wade  it  *over  all.*  *everywhere 

Lo,  what  said  he,  that  so  well  teache  can, 

'Be  thou  no  fellow  to  an  irous  man. 

Nor  with  no  wood*  man  walke  by  the  way,  *furious 

Lest  thee  repent;'  I  will  no  farther  say. 

"Now,  Thomas,  leve*  brother,  leave  thine  ire,  *dear 

Thou  shalt  me  fmd  as  just  as  is  as  squire; 

Hold  not  the  devil's  knife  aye  at  thine  heaat; 

Thine  anger  doth  thee  all  too  sore  smart;*  *pain 

But  shew  to  me  all  thy  confession." 

"Nay,"  quoth  the  sicke  man,  "by  Saint  Simon 

I  have  been  shriven*  this  day  of  my  curate;  *confessed 

I  have  him  told  all  wholly  mine  estate. 

Needeth  no  more  to  speak  of  it,  saith  he. 

But  if  me  list  of  mine  humility." 

"Give  me  then  of  thy  good  to  make  our  cloister," 

Quoth  he,  "for  many  a  mussel  and  many  an  oyster. 

When  other  men  have  been  full  well  at  ease. 

Hath  been  our  food,  our  cloister  for  to  rese:* 

And  yet,  God  wot,  unneth*  the  foundement** 

Performed  is,  nor  of  our  pavement 

Is  not  a  tile  yet  within  our  wones:*  *habitation 

By  God,  we  owe  forty  pound  for  stones. 

Now  help,  Thomas,  for  *him  that  harrow'd  hell,*  *Christ  <22> 

For  elles  must  we  oure  bookes  sell. 

And  if  ye  lack  our  predication. 

Then  goes  this  world  all  to  destruction. 

For  whoso  from  this  world  would  us  bereave. 

So  God  me  save,  Thomas,  by  your  leave. 

He  would  bereave  out  of  this  world  the  sun 

For  who  can  teach  and  worken  as  we  conne?*  *know  how  to  do 


*raise,  build 
^scarcely  **foundation 


244 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  that  is  not  of  little  time  (quoth  he), 

But  since  Elijah  was,  and  Elisee,*  *Elisha 

Have  friars  been,  that  find  I  of  record. 

In  charity,  y-thanked  be  our  Lord. 

Now, Thomas,  help  for  sainte  charity" 

And  down  anon  he  set  him  on  his  knee. 

The  sick  man  waxed  well-nigh  wood*  for  ire,  *mad 

He  woulde  that  the  friar  had  been  a-fire 

With  his  false  dissimulation. 

"Such  thing  as  is  in  my  possession," 

Quoth  he,  "that  may  I  give  you  and  none  other: 

Ye  say  me  thus,  how  that  I  am  your  brother." 

"Yea,  certes,"  quoth  this  friar,  "yea,  truste  well; 

I  took  our  Dame  the  letter  of  our  sear<23> 

"Now  well,"  quoth  he,  "and  somewhat  shall  I  give 

Unto  your  holy  convent  while  I  live; 

And  in  thine  hand  thou  shalt  it  have  anon. 

On  this  condition,  and  other  none. 

That  thou  depart*  it  so,  my  deare  brother,  *divide 

That  every  friar  have  as  much  as  other: 

This  shalt  thou  swear  on  thy  profession, 

Withoute  fraud  or  cavillation."*  *quibbling 

"I  swear  it,"  quoth  the  friar,  "upon  my  faith." 

And  therewithal  his  hand  in  his  he  lay'th; 

"Lo  here  my  faith,  in  me  shall  be  no  lack." 

"Then  put  thine  hand  adown  right  by  my  back," 

Saide  this  man,  "and  grope  well  behind. 

Beneath  my  buttock,  there  thou  shalt  fmd 

A  thing,  that  I  have  hid  in  privity." 

"Ah,"  thought  this  friar,  "that  shall  go  with  me." 

And  down  his  hand  he  launched  to  the  clift,*  *cleft 

In  hope  for  to  fmde  there  a  gift. 

And  when  this  sicke  man  felte  this  frere 

About  his  taile  groping  there  and  here. 


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Amid  his  hand  he  let  the  friar  a  fart; 

There  is  no  capel*  drawing  in  a  cart,  *horse 

That  might  have  let  a  fart  of  such  a  soun'. 

The  friar  up  start,  as  doth  a  wood*  lioun:  *fierce 

"Ah,  false  churl,"  quoth  he,  "for  Godde's  bones. 

This  hast  thou  in  despite  done  for  the  nones:*  *on  purpose 

Thou  shalt  abie*  this  fart,  if  that  I  may."  *suffer  for 

His  meinie,*  which  that  heard  of  this  affray,  *servants 

Came  leaping  in,  and  chased  out  the  frere. 

And  forth  he  went  with  a  full  angry  cheer*  *countenance 

And  fetch'd  his  fellow,  there  as  lay  his  store: 

He  looked  as  it  were  a  wilde  boar. 

And  grounde  with  his  teeth,  so  was  he  wroth. 

A  sturdy  pace  down  to  the  court  he  go'th. 

Where  as  there  wonn'd*  a  man  of  great  honour,  *dwelt 

To  whom  that  he  was  always  confessour: 

This  worthy  man  was  lord  of  that  village. 

This  friar  came,  as  he  were  in  a  rage. 

Where  as  this  lord  sat  eating  at  his  board: 

Unnethes*  might  the  friar  speak  one  word,  *with  difficulty 

Till  at  the  last  he  saide,  "God  you  see."*  *save 

This  lord  gan  look,  and  said,  "Ben'dicite! 

What?  Friar  John,  what  manner  world  is  this? 

I  see  well  that  there  something  is  amiss; 

Ye  look  as  though  the  wood  were  full  of  thieves. 

Sit  down  anon,  and  tell  me  what  your  grieve*  is,        *grievance,  grief 

And  it  shall  be  amended,  if  I  may." 

"I  have,"  quoth  he,  "had  a  despite  to-day, 

God  *yielde  you,*  adown  in  your  village,  *reward  you 

That  in  this  world  is  none  so  poor  a  page. 

That  would  not  have  abominatioun 

Of  that  I  have  received  in  your  town: 

And  yet  ne  grieveth  me  nothing  so  sore. 


246 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


As  that  the  olde  churl,  with  lockes  hoar, 

Blasphemed  hath  our  holy  convent  eke." 

"Now,  master,"  quoth  this  lord,  "I  you  beseek"  — 

"No  master.  Sir,"  quoth  he,  "but  servitour. 

Though  I  have  had  in  schoole  that  honour.  <24> 

God  liketh  not,  that  men  us  Rabbi  call 

Neither  in  market,  nor  in  your  large  hall." 

*"No  force,"*  quoth  he;  "but  tell  me  all  your  grief."         *no  matter* 

Sir,"  quoth  this  friar,  "an  odious  mischief 

This  day  betid*  is  to  mine  order  and  me,  *befallen 

And  so  par  consequence  to  each  degree 

Of  holy  churche,  God  amend  it  soon." 

"Sir,"  quoth  the  lord,  "ye  know  what  is  to  doon:*  *do 

*Distemp'r  you  not,*  ye  be  my  confessour.  *be  not  impatient* 

Ye  be  the  salt  of  th'  earth,  and  the  savour; 

For  Godde's  love  your  patience  now  hold; 

Tell  me  your  grief"  And  he  anon  him  told 

As  ye  have  heard  before,  ye  know  well  what. 

The  lady  of  the  house  aye  stiller  sat. 

Till  she  had  hearde  what  the  friar  said, 

"Hey,  Godde's  mother;"  quoth  she,  "blissful  maid. 

Is  there  ought  elles?  tell  me  faithfully." 

"Madame,"  quoth  he,  "how  thinketh  you  thereby?" 

"How  thinketh  me?"  quoth  she;  "so  God  me  speed, 

I  say,  a  churl  hath  done  a  churlish  deed. 

What  should  I  say?  God  let  him  never  the;*  *thrive 

His  sicke  head  is  full  of  vanity; 

I  hold  him  in  *a  manner  phrenesy."*  *a  sort  of  frenzy* 

"Madame,"  quoth  he,  "by  God,  I  shall  not  lie. 

But  I  in  other  wise  may  be  awreke,*  *revenged 

I  shall  defame  him  *ov'r  all  there*  I  speak;  *wherever 

This  false  blasphemour,  that  charged  me 

To  parte  that  will  not  departed  be. 

To  every  man  alike,  with  mischance." 


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247 


The  lord  sat  still,  as  he  were  in  a  trance. 
And  in  his  heart  he  rolled  up  and  down, 
"How  had  this  churl  imaginatioun 
To  shewe  such  a  problem  to  the  frere. 
Never  ere  now  heard  I  of  such  mattere; 
I  trow*  the  Devil  put  it  in  his  mind. 
In  all  arsmetrik*  shall  there  no  man  fmd. 
Before  this  day,  of  such  a  question. 
Who  shoulde  make  a  demonstration. 
That  every  man  should  have  alike  his  part 
As  of  the  sound  and  savour  of  a  fart? 

0  nice*  proude  churl,  I  shrew**  his  face. 
Lo,  Sires,"  quoth  the  lord,  "with  harde  grace. 
Who  ever  heard  of  such  a  thing  ere  now? 
To  every  man  alike?  tell  me  how. 

It  is  impossible,  it  may  not  be. 

Hey  nice*  churl,  God  let  him  never  the.** 

The  rumbling  of  a  fart,  and  every  soun'. 

Is  but  of  air  reverb eratioun. 

And  ever  wasteth  lite*  and  lite*  away; 

There  is  no  man  can  deemen,*  by  my  fay. 

If  that  it  were  departed*  equally. 

What?  lo,  my  churl,  lo  yet  how  shrewedly* 

Unto  my  confessour  to-day  he  spake; 

1  hold  him  certain  a  demoniac. 

Now  eat  your  meat,  and  let  the  churl  go  play. 
Let  him  go  hang  himself  a  devil  way!" 


*believe 
*arithmetic 


*foolish  **curse 


*foolish  **thrive 


*little 
*judge,  decide 
*divided 
*impiously,  wickedly 


Now  stood  the  lorde's  squier  at  the  board. 

That  carv'd  his  meat,  and  hearde  word  byword 

Of  all  this  thing,  which  that  I  have  you  said. 

"My  lord,"  quoth  he,  "be  ye  not  *evil  paid,*  *displeased* 

I  coulde  telle,  for  a  gowne-cloth,*  *cloth  for  a  gown* 


248 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


To  you,  Sir  Friar,  so  that  ye  be  not  wrot. 

How  that  this  fart  should  even*  dealed  be  *equally 

Among  your  convent,  if  it  liked  thee." 

"Tell,"  quoth  the  lord,  "and  thou  shalt  have  anon 

A  gowne-cloth,  by  God  and  by  Saint  John." 

"My  lord,"  quoth  he,  "when  that  the  weather  is  fair, 

Withoute  wind,  or  perturbing  of  air. 

Let*  bring  a  cart-wheel  here  into  this  hall,  cause* 

But  looke  that  it  have  its  spokes  all; 

Twelve  spokes  hath  a  cart-wheel  commonly; 

And  bring  me  then  twelve  friars,  know  ye  why? 

For  thirteen  is  a  convent  as  I  guess;  < 25  > 

Your  confessor  here,  for  his  worthiness. 

Shall  *perform  up*  the  number  of  his  convent.  *complete* 

Then  shall  they  kneel  adown  by  one  assent. 

And  to  each  spoke's  end,  in  this  mannere. 

Full  sadly*  lay  his  nose  shall  a  frere; 

Your  noble  confessor  there,  God  him  save. 

Shall  hold  his  nose  upright  under  the  nave. 

Then  shall  this  churl,  with  belly  stiff  and  tought* 

As  any  tabour,*  hither  be  y-brought; 

And  set  him  on  the  wheel  right  of  this  cart 

Upon  the  nave,  and  make  him  let  a  fart. 

And  ye  shall  see,  on  peril  of  my  life. 

By  very  proof  that  is  demonstrative. 

That  equally  the  sound  of  it  will  wend,*  *go 

And  eke  the  stink,  unto  the  spokes'  end. 

Save  that  this  worthy  man,  your  confessour' 

(Because  he  is  a  man  of  great  honour). 

Shall  have  the  firste  fruit,  as  reason  is; 

The  noble  usage  of  friars  yet  it  is. 

The  worthy  men  of  them  shall  first  be  served. 

And  certainly  he  hath  it  well  deserved; 

He  hath  to-day  taught  us  so  muche  good 


carefully,  steadily 


*tight 
*drum 


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With  preaching  in  the  pulpit  where  he  stood. 
That  I  may  vouchesafe,  I  say  for  me. 
He  had  the  firste  smell  of  fartes  three; 
And  so  would  all  his  brethren  hardily; 
He  beareth  him  so  fair  and  holily." 


249 


The  lord,  the  lady,  and  each  man,  save  the  frere, 
Saide,  that  Jankin  spake  in  this  mattere 
As  well  as  Euclid,  or  as  Ptolemy. 
Touching  the  churl,  they  said  that  subtilty 
And  high  wit  made  him  speaken  as  he  spake; 
He  is  no  fool,  nor  no  demoniac. 
And  Jankin  hath  y-won  a  newe  gown; 
My  tale  is  done,  we  are  almost  at  town. 


250 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


me  XD/e)^'^^ 


The  Prologue. 

"SIR  Clerk  of  Oxenford,"  our  Hoste  said, 

"Ye  ride  as  still  and  coy,  as  doth  a  maid 

That  were  new  spoused,  sitting  at  the  board: 

This  day  I  heard  not  of  your  tongue  a  word. 

I  trow  ye  study  about  some  sophime:*  *sophism 

But  Solomon  saith,  every  thing  hath  time. 

For  Godde's  sake,  be  of  *better  cheer,*  *livelier  mien* 

It  is  no  time  for  to  study  here. 

Tell  us  some  merry  tale,  by  your  fay;*  *faith 

For  what  man  that  is  entered  in  a  play. 

He  needes  must  unto  that  play  assent. 

But  preache  not,  as  friars  do  in  Lent, 

To  make  us  for  our  olde  sinnes  weep. 

Nor  that  thy  tale  make  us  not  to  sleep. 

Tell  us  some  merry  thing  of  aventures. 

Your  terms,  your  coloures,  and  your  figures. 

Keep  them  in  store,  till  so  be  ye  indite 

High  style,  as  when  that  men  to  kinges  write. 

Speake  so  plain  at  this  time,  I  you  pray. 

That  we  may  understande  what  ye  say." 

This  worthy  Clerk  benignely  answer 'd; 

"Hoste,"  quoth  he,  "I  am  under  your  yerd,*  *rod  <  1  > 

Ye  have  of  us  as  now  the  governance. 

And  therefore  would  I  do  you  obeisance. 

As  far  as  reason  asketh,  hardily:*  *boldly,  truly 

I  will  you  tell  a  tale,  which  that  I 

Learn'd  at  Padova  of  a  worthy  clerk. 

As  proved  by  his  wordes  and  his  werk. 


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He  is  now  dead,  and  nailed  in  his  chest, 

I  pray  to  God  to  give  his  soul  good  rest. 

Francis  Petrarc',  the  laureate  poet,<2> 

Highte*  this  clerk,  whose  rhetoric  so  sweet 

Illumin'd  all  Itale  of  poetry. 

As  Linian  <3>  did  of  philosophy. 

Or  law,  or  other  art  particulere: 

But  death,  that  will  not  suffer  us  dwell  here 

But  as  it  were  a  twinkling  of  an  eye. 

Them  both  hath  slain,  and  alle  we  shall  die. 


251 


"But  forth  to  tellen  of  this  worthy  man. 
That  taughte  me  this  tale,  as  I  began, 
I  say  that  first  he  with  high  style  inditeth 
(Ere  he  the  body  of  his  tale  writeth) 
A  proem,  in  the  which  describeth  he 
Piedmont,  and  of  Saluces  <4>  the  country. 
And  speaketh  of  the  Pennine  hilles  high. 
That  be  the  bounds  of  all  West  Lombardy: 
And  of  Mount  Vesulus  in  special. 
Where  as  the  Po  out  of  a  welle  small 
Taketh  his  firste  springing  and  his  source. 
That  eastward  aye  increaseth  in  his  course 
T'Emilia-ward,  <5>  to  Ferraro,  and  Venice, 
The  which  a  long  thing  were  to  devise.* 
And  truely,  as  to  my  judgement. 
Me  thinketh  it  a  thing  impertinent,* 
Save  that  he  would  conveye  his  mattere: 
But  this  is  the  tale,  which  that  ye  shall  hear." 


*was  called 


narrate 


*irrelevant 


252 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Tale. 


Tars  Prima.' 


*First  Part* 


There  is,  right  at  the  west  side  of  Itale, 

Down  at  the  root  of  Vesulus<2>  the  cold, 

A  lusty*  plain,  abundant  of  vitaille;*  *pleasant  **victuals 

There  many  a  town  and  tow'r  thou  may'st  behold. 

That  founded  were  in  time  of  fathers  old. 

And  many  another  delectable  sight; 

And  Saluces  this  noble  country  hight. 


A  marquis  whilom  lord  was  of  that  land. 
As  were  his  worthy  elders*  him  before. 
And  obedient,  aye  ready  to  his  hand. 
Were  all  his  lieges,  bothe  less  and  more: 
Thus  in  delight  he  liv'd,  and  had  done  yore,* 
Belov'd  and  drad,*  through  favour  of  fortune. 
Both  of  his  lordes  and  of  his  commune.* 


ancestors 


*long 
*held  in  reverence 
*commonalty 


Therewith  he  was,  to  speak  of  lineage. 
The  gentilest  y-born  of  Lombardy, 
A  fair  person,  and  strong,  and  young  of  age. 
And  full  of  honour  and  of  courtesy: 
Discreet  enough  his  country  for  to  gie,* 
Saving  in  some  things  that  he  was  to  blame; 
And  Walter  was  this  younge  lordes  name. 


*guide,  rule 


I  blame  him  thus,  that  he  consider'd  not 
In  time  coming  what  might  him  betide. 
But  on  his  present  lust*  was  all  his  thought. 
And  for  to  hawk  and  hunt  on  every  side; 
Well  nigh  all  other  cares  let  he  slide. 
And  eke  he  would  (that  was  the  worst  of  all) 


*pleasure 


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Wedde  no  wife  for  aught  that  might  befall. 


253 


Only  that  point  his  people  bare  so  sore. 
That  flockmel*  on  a  day  to  him  they  went. 
And  one  of  them,  that  wisest  was  of  lore 
(Or  elles  that  the  lord  would  best  assent 
That  he  should  tell  him  what  the  people  meant. 
Or  elles  could  he  well  shew  such  mattere). 
He  to  the  marquis  said  as  ye  shall  hear. 


ibody 


"O  noble  Marquis!  your  humanity 

Assureth  us  and  gives  us  hardiness. 

As  oft  as  time  is  of  necessity. 

That  we  to  you  may  tell  our  heaviness: 

Accepte,  Lord,  now  of  your  gentleness. 

What  we  with  piteous  heart  unto  you  plain,* 

And  let  your  ears  my  voice  not  disdain. 


*complain  of 


"All*  have  I  nought  to  do  in  this  mattere 
More  than  another  man  hath  in  this  place. 
Yet  forasmuch  as  ye,  my  Lord  so  dear. 
Have  always  shewed  me  favour  and  grace, 
I  dare  the  better  ask  of  you  a  space 
Of  audience,  to  shewen  our  request. 
And  ye,  my  Lord,  to  do  right  *as  you  lest.* 


*although 


*as  pleaseth  you* 


"For  certes.  Lord,  so  well  us  like  you 

And  all  your  work,  and  ev'r  have  done,  that  we 

Ne  coulde  not  ourselves  devise  how 

We  mighte  live  in  more  felicity: 

Save  one  thing.  Lord,  if  that  your  will  it  be. 

That  for  to  be  a  wedded  man  you  lest; 

Then  were  your  people  *in  sovereign  hearte's  rest.' 


*completely 


254 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"Bowe  your  neck  under  the  blissful  yoke 
Of  sovereignty,  and  not  of  service, 
Which  that  men  call  espousal  or  wedlock: 
And  thinke.  Lord,  among  your  thoughtes  wise. 
How  that  our  dayes  pass  in  sundry  wise; 
For  though  we  sleep,  or  wake,  or  roam,  or  ride. 
Aye  fleeth  time,  it  will  no  man  abide. 


"And  though  your  greene  youthe  flow'r  as  yet. 
In  creepeth  age  always  as  still  as  stone. 
And  death  menaceth  every  age,  and  smit* 
In  each  estate,  for  there  escapeth  none: 
And  all  so  certain  as  we  know  each  one 
That  we  shall  die,  as  uncertain  we  all 
Be  of  that  day  when  death  shall  on  us  fall. 


*smiteth 


"Accepte  then  of  us  the  true  intent,*  *mind,  desire 

That  never  yet  refused  youre  best,*  *command 

And  we  will.  Lord,  if  that  ye  will  assent. 

Choose  you  a  wife,  in  short  time  at  the  lest,*  *least 

Born  of  the  gentilest  and  of  the  best 

Of  all  this  land,  so  that  it  ought  to  seem 

Honour  to  God  and  you,  as  we  can  deem. 


"Deliver  us  out  of  all  this  busy  dread,*  *doubt 

And  take  a  wife,  for  highe  Godde's  sake: 

For  if  it  so  befell,  as  God  forbid. 

That  through  your  death  your  lineage  should  slake,*      *become  extinct 

And  that  a  strange  successor  shoulde  take 

Your  heritage,  oh!  woe  were  us  on  live:*  *alive 

Wherefore  we  pray  you  hastily  to  wive." 

Their  meeke  prayer  and  their  piteous  cheer 
Made  the  marquis  for  to  have  pity. 


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"Ye  will,"  quoth  he,  "mine  owen  people  dear. 
To  that  I  ne'er  ere*  thought  constraine  me. 
I  me  rejoiced  of  my  liberty. 
That  seldom  time  is  found  in  marriage; 
Where  I  was  free,  I  must  be  in  servage!* 


255 


*before 


*servitude 


"But  natheless  I  see  your  true  intent. 

And  trust  upon  your  wit,  and  have  done  aye: 

Wherefore  of  my  free  will  I  will  assent 

To  wedde  me,  as  soon  as  e'er  I  may. 

But  whereas  ye  have  proffer'd  me  to-day 

To  choose  me  a  wife,  I  you  release 

That  choice,  and  pray  you  of  that  proffer  cease. 


"For  God  it  wot,  that  children  often  been 
Unlike  their  worthy  elders  them  before, 
Bounte*  comes  all  of  God,  not  of  the  strene* 
Of  which  they  be  engender'd  and  y-bore: 
I  trust  in  Godde's  bounte,  and  therefore 
My  marriage,  and  mine  estate  and  rest, 
I  *him  betake;*  he  may  do  as  him  lest. 


*goodness 
*stock,  race 


*commend  to  him 


"Let  me  alone  in  choosing  of  my  wife; 
That  charge  upon  my  back  I  will  endure: 
But  I  you  pray,  and  charge  upon  your  life. 
That  what  wife  that  I  take,  ye  me  assure 
To  worship*  her,  while  that  her  life  may  dure. 
In  word  and  work  both  here  and  elleswhere. 
As  she  an  emperore's  daughter  were. 


*honour 


"And  farthermore  this  shall  ye  swear,  that  ye 
Against  my  choice  shall  never  grudge*  nor  strive. 
For  since  I  shall  forego  my  liberty 
At  your  request,  as  ever  may  I  thrive. 


256 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Where  as  mine  heart  is  set,  there  will  I  live 

And  but*  ye  will  assent  in  such  mannere,  *unless 

I  pray  you  speak  no  more  of  this  mattere." 


With  heartly  will  they  sworen  and  assent 

To  all  this  thing,  there  said  not  one  wight  nay: 

Beseeching  him  of  grace,  ere  that  they  went. 

That  he  would  grante  them  a  certain  day 

Of  his  espousal,  soon  as  e'er  he  rnay. 

For  yet  always  the  people  somewhat  dread* 

Lest  that  the  marquis  woulde  no  wife  wed. 

He  granted  them  a  day,  such  as  him  lest. 
On  which  he  would  be  wedded  sickerly,* 
And  said  he  did  all  this  at  their  request; 
And  they  with  humble  heart  full  buxomly,* 
Kneeling  upon  their  knees  full  reverently. 
Him  thanked  all;  and  thus  they  have  an  end 
Of  their  intent,  and  home  again  they  wend. 


*were  in  fear  or  doubt 

*certainly 
*obediently  <3> 


And  hereupon  he  to  his  officers 

Commanded  for  the  feaste  to  purvey*  *provide 

And  to  his  privy  knightes  and  squiers 

Such  charge  he  gave,  as  him  list  on  them  lay: 

And  they  to  his  commandement  obey. 

And  each  of  them  doth  all  his  diligence 

To  do  unto  the  feast  all  reverence. 


*Pars  Secunda* 


*Second  Part* 


Not  far  from  thilke*  palace  honourable. 
Where  as  this  marquis  shope*  his  marriage. 


*that 
*prepared;  resolved  on 


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There  stood  a  thorp,*  of  sighte  delectable. 
In  which  the  poore  folk  of  that  village 
Hadde  their  beastes  and  their  harbourage,* 
And  of  their  labour  took  their  sustenance. 
After  the  earthe  gave  them  abundance. 

Among  this  poore  folk  there  dwelt  a  man 
Which  that  was  holden  poorest  of  them  all; 
But  highe  God  sometimes  sende  can 
His  grace  unto  a  little  ox's  stall; 
Janicola  men  of  that  thorp  him  call. 
A  daughter  had  he,  fair  enough  to  sight. 
And  Griseldis  this  younge  maiden  hight. 

But  for  to  speak  of  virtuous  beauty. 

Then  was  she  one  the  fairest  under  sun: 

Full  poorely  y-foster'd  up  was  she; 

No  *likerous  lust*  was  in  her  heart  y-run; 

Well  ofter  of  the  well  than  of  the  tun 

She  drank,  <4>  and,  for*  she  woulde  virtue  please 

She  knew  well  labour,  but  no  idle  ease. 


257 


*hamlet 
*d  welling 


luxurious  pleasure* 


*because 


But  though  this  maiden  tender  were  of  age; 

Yet  in  the  breast  of  her  virginity 

There  was  inclos'd  a  *sad  and  ripe  corage;* 

And  in  great  reverence  and  charity 

Her  olde  poore  father  foster'd  she. 

A  few  sheep,  spinning,  on  the  field  she  kept. 

She  woulde  not  be  idle  till  she  slept. 


*steadfast  and  mature 
spirit* 


And  when  she  homeward  came,  she  would  bring 

Wortes,*  and  other  herbes,  times  oft,  *plants,  cabbages 

The  which  she  shred  and  seeth'd  for  her  living. 

And  made  her  bed  full  hard,  and  nothing  soft: 


258 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  aye  she  kept  her  father's  life  on  loft* 
With  ev'ry  obeisance  and  diligence, 
That  child  may  do  to  father's  reverence. 


*up,  aloft 


Upon  Griselda,  this  poor  creature, 
Full  often  sithes*  this  marquis  set  his  eye. 
As  he  on  hunting  rode,  paraventure:* 
And  when  it  fell  that  he  might  her  espy. 
He  not  with  wanton  looking  of  folly 
His  eyen  cast  on  her,  but  in  sad*  wise 
Upon  her  cheer*  he  would  him  oft  advise;*' 


*by  chance 


serious 
*countenance  **consider 


Commending  in  his  heart  her  womanhead. 
And  eke  her  virtue,  passing  any  wight 
Of  so  young  age,  as  well  in  cheer  as  deed. 
For  though  the  people  have  no  great  insight 
In  virtue,  he  considered  full  right 
Her  bounte,*  and  disposed  that  he  would 
Wed  only  her,  if  ever  wed  he  should. 


*goodness 


The  day  of  wedding  came,  but  no  wight  can 
Telle  what  woman  that  it  shoulde  be; 
For  which  marvail  wonder 'd  many  a  man. 
And  saide,  when  they  were  in  privity, 
"Will  not  our  lord  yet  leave  his  vanity? 
Will  he  not  wed?  Alas,  alas  the  while! 
Why  will  he  thus  himself  and  us  beguile?" 


But  natheless  this  marquis  had  *done  make* 
Of  gemmes,  set  in  gold  and  in  azure. 
Brooches  and  ringes,  for  Griselda's  sake. 
And  of  her  clothing  took  he  the  measure 
Of  a  maiden  like  unto  her  stature. 
And  eke  of  other  ornamentes  all 


*caused  to  be  made* 


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That  unto  such  a  wedding  shoulde  fall.* 


*befit 


259 


The  time  of  undern*  of  the  same  day 
Approached,  that  this  wedding  shoulde  be. 
And  all  the  palace  put  was  in  array. 
Both  hall  and  chamber,  each  in  its  degree. 
Houses  of  office  stuffed  with  plenty 
There  may'st  thou  see  of  dainteous  vitaille,* 
That  maybe  found,  as  far  as  lasts  Itale. 


evening  < 


*victuals,  provisions 


This  royal  marquis,  richely  array 'd, 
Lordes  and  ladies  in  his  company. 
The  which  unto  the  feaste  were  pray'd. 
And  of  his  retinue  the  bach'lery. 
With  many  a  sound  of  sundry  melody. 
Unto  the  village,  of  the  which  I  told. 
In  this  array  the  right  way  did  they  hold. 


Griseld'  of  this  (God  wot)  full  innocent. 

That  for  her  shapen*  was  all  this  array. 

To  fetche  water  at  a  well  is  went. 

And  home  she  came  as  soon  as  e'er  she  may. 

For  well  she  had  heard  say,  that  on  that  day 

The  marquis  shoulde  wed,  and,  if  she  might. 

She  fain  would  have  seen  somewhat  of  that  sight. 


*prepared 


She  thought,  "I  will  with  other  maidens  stand. 
That  be  my  fellows,  in  our  door,  and  see 
The  marchioness;  and  therefore  will  I  fand* 
To  do  at  home,  as  soon  as  it  may  be. 
The  labour  which  belongeth  unto  me. 
And  then  I  may  at  leisure  her  behold. 
If  she  this  way  unto  the  castle  hold." 


"strive 


260 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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261 


And  as  she  would  over  the  threshold  gon, 
The  marquis  came  and  gan  for  her  to  call, 
And  she  set  down  her  water-pot  anon 
Beside  the  threshold,  in  an  ox's  stall. 
And  down  upon  her  knees  she  gan  to  fall. 
And  with  sad*  countenance  kneeled  still. 
Till  she  had  heard  what  was  the  lorde's  will. 

The  thoughtful  marquis  spake  unto  the  maid 
Full  soberly,  and  said  in  this  mannere: 
"Where  is  your  father,  Griseldis?"  he  said. 
And  she  with  reverence,  *in  humble  cheer,* 
Answered,  "Lord,  he  is  all  ready  here." 
And  in  she  went  withoute  longer  let* 
And  to  the  marquis  she  her  father  fet.* 

He  by  the  hand  then  took  the  poore  man. 
And  saide  thus,  when  he  him  had  aside: 
"Janicola,  I  neither  may  nor  can 
Longer  the  pleasance  of  mine  hearte  hide; 
If  that  thou  vouchesafe,  whatso  betide. 
Thy  daughter  will  I  take,  ere  that  I  wend,* 
As  for  my  wife,  unto  her  life's  end. 

"Thou  lovest  me,  that  know  I  well  certain. 
And  art  my  faithful  liegeman  y-bore,* 
And  all  that  liketh  me,  I  dare  well  sayn 
It  liketh  thee;  and  specially  therefore 
Tell  me  that  point,  that  I  have  said  before,  — 
If  that  thou  wilt  unto  this  purpose  draw. 
To  take  me  as  for  thy  son-in-law." 

This  sudden  case*  the  man  astonied  so. 
That  red  he  wax'd,  abash'd,*  and  all  quaking 


*steady 


*with  humble  air* 

*delay 
*fetched 


*born 


event 
*amazed 


He  stood;  unnethes*  said  he  wordes  mo'. 
But  only  thus;  "Lord,"  quoth  he,  "my  willing 
Is  as  ye  will,  nor  against  your  liking 
I  will  no  thing,  mine  owen  lord  so  dear; 
Right  as  you  list  governe  this  mattere." 

"Then  will  I,"  quoth  the  marquis  softely, 
"That  in  thy  chamber  I,  and  thou,  and  she. 
Have  a  collation;*  and  know'st  thou  why? 
For  I  will  ask  her,  if  her  will  it  be 
To  be  my  wife,  and  rule  her  after  me: 
And  all  this  shall  be  done  in  thy  presence, 
I  will  not  speak  out  of  thine  audience."* 

And  in  the  chamber  while  they  were  about 
The  treaty,  which  ye  shall  hereafter  hear. 
The  people  came  into  the  house  without. 
And  wonder 'd  them  in  how  honest  mannere 
And  tenderly  she  kept  her  father  dear; 
But  utterly  Griseldis  wonder  might. 
For  never  erst*  ne  saw  she  such  a  sight. 

No  wonder  is  though  that  she  be  astoned,* 
To  see  so  great  a  guest  come  in  that  place. 
She  never  was  to  no  such  guestes  woned;* 
For  which  she  looked  with  full  pale  face. 
But  shortly  forth  this  matter  for  to  chase,* 
These  are  the  wordes  that  the  marquis  said 
To  this  benigne,  very,*  faithful  maid. 

"Griseld',"  he  said,  "ye  shall  well  understand. 
It  liketh  to  your  father  and  to  me 
That  I  you  wed,  and  eke  it  may  so  stand. 
As  I  suppose  ye  will  that  it  so  be: 


*scarcely 


*conference 


*hearing 


*before 
*astonished 
*accustomed,  wont 
*push  on,  pursue 
*true  <6> 


262 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


But  these  demandes  ask  I  first,"  quoth  he, 
"Since  that  it  shall  be  done  in  hasty  wise; 
Will  ye  assent,  or  elles  you  advise?* 

"I  say  this,  be  ye  ready  with  good  heart 

To  all  my  lust,*  and  that  I  freely  may. 

As  me  best  thinketh,  *do  you*  laugh  or  smart. 

And  never  ye  to  grudge,*  night  nor  day. 

And  eke  when  I  say  Yea,  ye  say  not  Nay, 

Neither  byword,  nor  frowning  countenance? 

Swear  this,  and  here  I  swear  our  alliance." 

Wond  ring  upon  this  word,  quaking  for  dread. 

She  saide;  "Lord,  indigne  and  unworthy 

Am  I  to  this  honour  that  ye  me  bede,* 

But  as  ye  will  yourself,  right  so  will  I: 

And  here  I  swear,  that  never  willingly 

In  word  or  thought  I  will  you  disobey. 

For  to  be  dead;  though  me  were  loth  to  dey"* 

"This  is  enough,  Griselda  mine,"  quoth  he. 
And  forth  he  went  with  a  full  sober  cheer. 
Out  at  the  door,  and  after  then  came  she. 
And  to  the  people  he  said  in  this  mannere: 
"This  is  my  wife,"  quoth  he,  "that  standeth  here. 
Honoure  her,  and  love  her,  I  you  pray. 
Whoso  me  loves;  there  is  no  more  to  say." 

And,  for  that  nothing  of  her  olde  gear 
She  shoulde  bring  into  his  house,  he  bade 
That  women  should  despoile*  her  right  there; 
Of  which  these  ladies  were  nothing  glad 
To  handle  her  clothes  wherein  she  was  clad: 
But  natheless  this  maiden  bright  of  hue 


*consider 


*pleasure 
*cause  you  to* 
*murmur 


*offer 


*die 


''strip 


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From  foot  to  head  they  clothed  have  all  new. 


263 


Her  haires  have  they  comb'd  that  lay  untress'd* 
Full  rudely,  and  with  their  fingers  small 
A  crown  upon  her  head  they  have  dress'd. 
And  set  her  full  of  nouches  <7>  great  and  small: 
Of  her  array  why  should  I  make  a  tale? 
Unneth*  the  people  her  knew  for  her  fairness. 
When  she  transmuted  was  in  such  ri chess. 

The  marquis  hath  her  spoused  with  a  ring 
Brought  for  the  same  cause,  and  then  her  set 
Upon  a  horse  snow-white,  and  well  ambling. 
And  to  his  palace,  ere  he  longer  let* 
With  joyful  people,  that  her  led  and  met. 
Conveyed  her;  and  thus  the  day  they  spend 
In  revel,  till  the  sunne  gan  descend. 

And,  shortly  forth  this  tale  for  to  chase, 

I  say,  that  to  this  newe  marchioness 

God  hath  such  favour  sent  her  of  his  grace. 

That  it  ne  seemed  not  by  likeliness 

That  she  was  born  and  fed  in  rudeness,  — 

As  in  a  cot,  or  in  an  ox's  stall,  — 

But  nourish'd  in  an  emperore  s  hall. 

To  every  wight  she  waxen*  is  so  dear 
And  worshipful,  that  folk  where  she  was  born. 
That  from  her  birthe  knew  her  year  by  year, 
*Unnethes  trowed*  they,  but  durst  have  sworn. 
That  to  Janicof  of  whom  I  spake  before. 
She  was  not  daughter,  for  by  conjecture 
Them  thought  she  was  another  creature. 


*loose 


*scarcely 


*delayed 


grown 


*scarcely  believed* 


264 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  though  that  ever  virtuous  was  she, 
She  was  increased  in  such  excellence 
Of  thewes*  good,  y-set  in  high  bounte. 
And  so  discreet,  and  fair  of  eloquence. 
So  benign,  and  so  digne*  of  reverence. 
And  coulde  so  the  people's  heart  embrace. 
That  each  her  lov'd  that  looked  on  her  face. 

Not  only  of  Saluces  in  the  town 
Published  was  the  bounte  of  her  name. 
But  eke  besides  in  many  a  regioun; 
If  one  said  well,  another  said  the  same: 
So  spread  of  here  high  bounte  the  fame. 
That  men  and  women,  young  as  well  as  old. 
Went  to  Saluces,  her  for  to  behold. 

Thus  Walter  lowly,  —  nay,  but  royally, - 

Wedded  with  fortn'ate  honestete,* 

In  Godde's  peace  lived  full  easily 

At  home,  and  outward  grace  enough  had  he: 

And,  for  he  saw  that  under  low  degree 

Was  honest  virtue  hid,  the  people  him  held 

A  prudent  man,  and  that  is  seen  full  seld'.* 

Not  only  this  Griseldis  through  her  wit 
*Couth  all  the  feat*  of  wifely  homeliness. 
But  eke,  when  that  the  case  required  it. 
The  common  profit  coulde  she  redress: 
There  n'as  discord,  rancour,  nor  heaviness 
In  all  the  land,  that  she  could  not  appease. 
And  wisely  bring  them  all  in  rest  and  ease 

Though  that  her  husband  absent  were  or  non,* 
If  gentlemen  or  other  of  that  country. 


*qualities 
*worthy 


*seldom 


*knew  all  the  duties* 


"not 


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Were  wroth,*  she  woulde  bringe  them  at  one,  *at  feud 

So  wise  and  ripe  wordes  hadde  she. 

And  judgement  of  so  great  equity. 

That  she  from  heaven  sent  was,  as  men  wend,* 

People  to  save,  and  every  wrong  t'amend 


265 


*weened,  imagined 


Not  longe  time  after  that  this  Griseld' 
Was  wedded,  she  a  daughter  had  y-bore; 
All  she  had  lever*  borne  a  knave**  child. 
Glad  was  the  marquis  and  his  folk  therefore; 
For,  though  a  maiden  child  came  all  before. 
She  may  unto  a  knave  child  attain 
By  likelihood,  since  she  is  not  barren. 


*rather  **boy 


*ParsTertia.^ 


*Third  Part* 


There  fell,  as  falleth  many  times  mo'. 

When  that  his  child  had  sucked  but  a  throw,*  little  while 

This  marquis  in  his  hearte  longed  so 

To  tempt  his  wife,  her  sadness*  for  to  know,  *steadfastness 

That  he  might  not  out  of  his  hearte  throw 

This  marvellous  desire  his  wife  t'asssay;*  *try 

Needless,*  God  wot,  he  thought  her  to  affray.**  *without  cause 

**alarm,  disturb 
He  had  assayed  her  anough  before. 
And  found  her  ever  good;  what  needed  it 
Her  for  to  tempt,  and  always  more  and  more? 
Though  some  men  praise  it  for  a  subtle  wit. 
But  as  for  me,  I  say  that  *evil  it  sit*  *it  ill  became  him* 

T'assay  a  wife  when  that  it  is  no  need. 
And  putte  her  in  anguish  and  in  dread. 


266 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"two 


For  which  this  marquis  wrought  in  this  mannere: 
He  came  at  night  alone  there  as  she  lay, 
With  Sterne  face  and  with  full  troubled  cheer, 
And  saide  thus;  "Griseld',"  quoth  he  "that  day 
That  I  you  took  out  of  your  poor  array. 
And  put  you  in  estate  of  high  nobless. 
Ye  have  it  not  forgotten,  as  I  guess. 

"I  say,  Griseld',  this  present  dignity. 

In  which  that  I  have  put  you,  as  I  trow*  *believe 

Maketh  you  not  forgetful  for  to  be 

That  I  you  took  in  poor  estate  full  low. 

For  any  weal  you  must  yourselfe  know 

Take  heed  of  every  word  that  I  you  say. 

There  is  no  wight  that  hears  it  but  we  tway* 

"Ye  know  yourself  well  how  that  ye  came  here 

Into  this  house,  it  is  not  long  ago; 

And  though  to  me  ye  be  right  lefe*  and  dear. 

Unto  my  gentles*  ye  be  nothing  so: 

They  say,  to  them  it  is  great  shame  and  woe 

For  to  be  subject,  and  be  in  servage. 

To  thee,  that  born  art  of  small  lineage. 

"And  namely*  since  thy  daughter  was  y-bore  *especially 

These  wordes  have  they  spoken  doubteless; 

But  I  desire,  as  I  have  done  before. 

To  live  my  life  with  them  in  rest  and  peace: 

I  may  not  in  this  case  be  reckeless; 

I  must  do  with  thy  daughter  for  the  best. 

Not  as  I  would,  but  as  my  gentles  lest.*  *please 

"And  yet,  God  wot,  this  is  full  loth*  to  me:  *odious 

But  natheless  withoute  your  weeting*  *knowing 


*loved 
''nobles,  gentlefolk 


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I  will  nought  do;  but  this  will  I,"  quoth  he, 
"That  ye  to  me  assenten  in  this  thing. 
Shew  now  your  patience  in  your  working. 
That  ye  me  hight*  and  swore  in  your  village 
The  day  that  maked  was  our  marriage." 


267 


When  she  had  heard  all  this,  she  not  amev'd* 
Neither  in  word,  in  cheer,  nor  countenance 
(For,  as  it  seemed,  she  was  not  aggriev'd); 
She  saide;  "Lord,  all  lies  in  your  pleasance. 
My  child  and  I,  with  hearty  obeisance 
Be  youres  all,  and  ye  may  save  or  spill* 
Your  owen  thing:  work  then  after  your  will. 

"There  may  no  thing,  so  God  my  soule  save, 
*Like  to*  you,  that  may  displease  me: 
Nor  I  desire  nothing  for  to  have. 
Nor  dreade  for  to  lose,  save  only  ye: 
This  will  is  in  mine  heart,  and  aye  shall  be. 
No  length  of  time,  nor  death,  may  this  deface. 
Nor  change  my  corage*  to  another  place." 

Glad  was  the  marquis  for  her  answering. 
But  yet  he  feigned  as  he  were  not  so; 
All  dreary  was  his  cheer  and  his  looking 
When  that  he  should  out  of  the  chamber  go. 
Soon  after  this,  a  furlong  way  or  two,<8> 
He  privily  hath  told  all  his  intent 
Unto  a  man,  and  to  his  wife  him  sent. 

A  *manner  sergeant*  was  this  private*  man. 
The  which  he  faithful  often  founden  had 
In  thinges  great,  and  eke  such  folk  well  can 
Do  execution  in  thinges  bad: 


*promised 


*changed 


*destroy 


*be  pleasing* 


*spirit,  heart 


*kind  of  squire* 
*discreet 


268 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  lord  knew  well,  that  he  him  loved  and  drad.* 
And  when  this  sergeant  knew  his  lorde  s  will, 
Into  the  chamber  stalked  he  full  still. 


*dreaded 


"Madam,"  he  said,  "ye  must  forgive  it  me. 
Though  I  do  thing  to  which  I  am  constrain'd; 
Ye  be  so  wise,  that  right  well  knowe  ye 
*That  lordes'  hestes  may  not  be  y-feign'd;* 
They  may  well  be  bewailed  and  complain'd. 
But  men  must  needs  unto  their  lust*  obey; 
And  so  will  I,  there  is  no  more  to  say 


*seenote  <9>* 
*pleasure 


"This  child  I  am  commanded  for  to  take." 

And  spake  no  more,  but  out  the  child  he  hent*  *seized 

Dispiteously*  and  gan  a  cheer**  to  make     *unpityingly  **show,  aspect 

As  though  he  would  have  slain  it  ere  he  went. 

Griseldis  must  all  suffer  and  consent: 

And  as  a  lamb  she  sat  there  meek  and  still. 

And  let  this  cruel  sergeant  do  his  will 

Suspicious*  was  the  diffame**  of  this  man,     *ominous  **evil  reputation 

Suspect  his  face,  suspect  his  word  also. 

Suspect  the  time  in  which  he  this  began: 

Alas!  her  daughter,  that  she  loved  so. 

She  weened*  he  would  have  it  slain  right  tho,**  *thought  **then 

But  natheless  she  neither  wept  nor  siked,*  *sighed 

Conforming  her  to  what  the  marquis  liked. 

But  at  the  last  to  speake  she  began. 

And  meekly  she  unto  the  sergeant  pray'd. 

So  as  he  was  a  worthy  gentle  man. 

That  she  might  kiss  her  child,  ere  that  it  died: 

And  in  her  barme*  this  little  child  she  laid,  *lap,  bosom 

With  full  sad  face,  and  gan  the  child  to  bless,*  *cross 


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And  lulled  it,  and  after  gan  it  kiss. 


269 


And  thus  she  said  in  her  benigne  voice: 
Farewell,  my  child,  I  shall  thee  never  see; 
But  since  I  have  thee  marked  with  the  cross. 
Of  that  father  y-blessed  may'st  thou  be 
That  for  us  died  upon  a  cross  of  tree: 
Thy  soul,  my  little  child,  I  *him  betake,* 
For  this  night  shalt  thou  dien  for  my  sake. 


*commit  unto  him* 


I  trow*  that  to  a  norice**  in  this  case 

It  had  been  hard  this  ruthe*  for  to  see: 

Well  might  a  mother  then  have  cried,  "Alas!" 

But  natheless  so  sad  steadfast  was  she. 

That  she  endured  all  adversity. 

And  to  the  sergeant  meekely  she  said, 

"Have  here  again  your  little  younge  maid. 


*believe  **nurse 
*pitiful  sight 


"Go  now,"  quoth  she,  "and  do  my  lord's  behest. 
And  one  thing  would  I  pray  you  of  your  grace, 
*But  iP  my  lord  forbade  you  at  the  least. 
Bury  this  little  body  in  some  place. 
That  neither  beasts  nor  birdes  it  arace."* 
But  he  no  word  would  to  that  purpose  say. 
But  took  the  child  and  went  upon  his  way. 


*unless* 
*tear  <10> 


The  sergeant  came  unto  his  lord  again. 
And  of  Griselda's  words  and  of  her  cheer* 
He  told  him  point  for  point,  in  short  and  plain. 
And  him  presented  with  his  daughter  dear. 
Somewhat  this  lord  had  ruth  in  his  mannere. 
But  natheless  his  purpose  held  he  still. 
As  lordes  do,  when  they  will  have  their  will; 


*demeanour 


270 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  bade  this  sergeant  that  he  privily 

Shoulde  the  child  full  softly  wind  and  wrap, 

With  alle  circumstances  tenderly, 

And  carry  it  in  a  coffer,  or  in  lap; 

But,  upon  pain  his  head  off  for  to  swap,* 

That  no  man  shoulde  know  of  his  intent. 

Nor  whence  he  came,  nor  whither  that  he  went; 


*strike 


But  at  Bologna,  to  his  sister  dear. 

That  at  that  time  of  Panic'*  was  Countess, 

He  should  it  take,  and  shew  her  this  mattere. 

Beseeching  her  to  do  her  business 

This  child  to  foster  in  all  gentleness. 

And  whose  child  it  was  he  bade  her  hide 

From  every  wight,  for  aught  that  might  betide. 


*Panico 


The  sergeant  went,  and  hath  fulfdl'd  this  thing. 

But  to  the  marquis  now  returne  we; 

For  now  went  he  full  fast  imagining 

If  by  his  wife's  cheer  he  mighte  see. 

Or  by  her  wordes  apperceive,  that  she 

Were  changed;  but  he  never  could  her  fmd. 

But  ever-in-one*  alike  sad**  and  kind.  *constantly  **steadfast 


As  glad,  as  humble,  as  busy  in  service. 

And  eke  in  love,  as  she  was  wont  to  be. 

Was  she  to  him,  in  every  *manner  wise;*  *sort  of  way* 

And  of  her  daughter  not  a  word  spake  she; 

*No  accident  for  no  adversity*  *no  change  of  humour  resulting 

Was  seen  in  her,  nor  e'er  her  daughter's  name       from  her  affliction* 

She  named,  or  in  earnest  or  in  game. 


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271 


*Pars  Quarta* 


*Fourth  Part* 


In  this  estate  there  passed  be  four  year 

Ere  she  with  childe  was;  but,  as  God  wo 'Id, 

A  knave*  child  she  bare  by  this  Waltere,  *boy 

Full  gracious  and  fair  for  to  behold; 

And  when  that  folk  it  to  his  father  told. 

Not  only  he,  but  all  his  country,  merry 

Were  for  this  child,  and  God  they  thank  and  hery*  *praise 


When  it  was  two  year  old,  and  from  the  breast 
Departed*  of  the  norice,  on  a  day 
This  marquis  *caughte  yet  another  lest* 
To  tempt  his  wife  yet  farther,  if  he  may. 
Oh!  needless  was  she  tempted  in  as  say;* 
But  wedded  men  *not  connen  no  measure,* 
When  that  they  fmd  a  patient  creature. 


*taken,  weaned 
*was  seized  by  yet 
another  desire* 
*trial 
*know  no  moderation* 


"Wife,"  quoth  the  marquis,  "ye  have  heard  ere  this 

My  people  *sickly  bear*  our  marriage;  *regard  with  displeasure* 

And  namely*  since  my  son  y-boren  is,  *especially 

Now  is  it  worse  than  ever  in  all  our  age: 

The  murmur  slays  mine  heart  and  my  corage. 

For  to  mine  ears  cometh  the  voice  so  smart,*  *painfully 

That  it  well  nigh  destroyed  hath  mine  heart. 


"Now  say  they  thus,  'When  Walter  is  y-gone. 
Then  shall  the  blood  of  Janicol'  succeed. 
And  be  our  lord,  for  other  have  we  none:' 
Such  wordes  say  my  people,  out  of  drede.* 
Well  ought  I  of  such  murmur  take  heed. 
For  certainly  I  dread  all  such  sentence,* 
Though  they  not  *plainen  in  mine  audience 


*doubt 

expression  of  opinion 

*complain  in  my  hearing* 


272 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"I  woulde  live  in  peace,  if  that  I  might; 
Wherefore  I  am  disposed  utterly, 
As  I  his  sister  served  ere*  by  night. 
Right  so  think  I  to  serve  him  privily 
This  warn  I  you,  that  ye  not  suddenly 
Out  of  yourself  for  no  woe  should  outraie;* 
Be  patient,  and  thereof  I  you  pray" 


*before 


*become  outrageous,  rave 


"I  have,"  quoth  she,  "said  thus,  and  ever  shall, 
I  will  no  thing,  nor  n'ill  no  thing,  certain. 
But  as  you  list;  not  grieveth  me  at  all 
Though  that  my  daughter  and  my  son  be  slain 
At  your  commandement;  that  is  to  sayn, 
I  have  not  had  no  part  of  children  twain. 
But  first  sickness,  and  after  woe  and  pain. 


"Ye  be  my  lord,  do  with  your  owen  thing 

Right  as  you  list,  and  ask  no  rede  of  me: 

For,  as  I  left  at  home  all  my  clothing 

When  I  came  first  to  you,  right  so,"  quoth  she, 

"Left  I  my  will  and  all  my  liberty. 

And  took  your  clothing:  wherefore  I  you  pray. 

Do  your  pleasance,  I  will  your  lust*  obey 


*will 


"And,  certes,  if  I  hadde  prescience 

Your  will  to  know,  ere  ye  your  lust*  me  told, 

I  would  it  do  withoute  negligence: 

But,  now  I  know  your  lust,  and  what  ye  wold. 

All  your  pleasance  firm  and  stable  I  hold; 

For,  wist  I  that  my  death  might  do  you  ease. 

Right  gladly  would  I  dien  you  to  please. 


*will 


"Death  may  not  make  no  comparisoun 


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Unto  your  love."  And  when  this  marquis  say* 
The  Constance  of  his  wife,  he  cast  ad  own 
His  eyen  two,  and  wonder 'd  how  she  may 
In  patience  suffer  all  this  array; 
And  forth  he  went  with  dreary  countenance; 
But  to  his  heart  it  was  full  great  pleasance. 


273 


This  ugly  sergeant,  in  the  same  wise 
That  he  her  daughter  caught,  right  so  hath  he 
(Or  worse,  if  men  can  any  worse  devise,) 
Y-hent*  her  son,  that  full  was  of  beauty: 
And  ever-in-one*  so  patient  was  she. 
That  she  no  cheere  made  of  heaviness. 
But  kiss'd  her  son,  and  after  gan  him  bless. 


*seized 
*unvaryingly 


Save  this  she  prayed  him,  if  that  he  might. 
Her  little  son  he  would  in  earthe  grave,* 
His  tender  limbes,  delicate  to  sight. 
From  fowles  and  from  beastes  for  to  save. 
But  she  none  answer  of  him  mighte  have; 
He  went  his  way,  as  him  nothing  ne  raught,* 
But  to  Bologna  tenderly  it  brought. 


Dury 


*cared 


The  marquis  wonder 'd  ever  longer  more 

Upon  her  patience;  and,  if  that  he 

Not  hadde  soothly  knowen  therebefore 

That  perfectly  her  children  loved  she. 

He  would  have  ween'd*  that  of  some  subtilty,  *thought 

And  of  malice,  or  for  cruel  corage,*  *disposition 

She  hadde  suffer 'd  this  with  sad*  visage.  *steadfast,  unmoved 


But  well  he  knew,  that,  next  himself,  certain 
She  lov'd  her  children  best  in  every  wise. 
But  now  of  women  would  I  aske  fain. 


274 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


If  these  assayes  mighte  not  suffice? 
What  could  a  sturdy*  husband  more  devise 
To  prove  her  wifehood  and  her  steadfastness, 
And  he  continuing  ev'r  in  sturdiness? 


"stern 


But  there  be  folk  of  such  condition, 
That,  when  they  have  a  certain  purpose  take, 
Thiey  cannot  stint*  of  their  intention. 
But,  right  as  they  were  bound  unto  a  stake. 
They  will  not  of  their  firste  purpose  slake:* 
Right  so  this  marquis  fully  hath  purpos'd 
To  tempt  his  wife,  as  he  was  first  dispos'd. 


*slacken,  abate 


He  waited,  if  by  word  or  countenance 
That  she  to  him  was  changed  of  corage:* 
But  never  could  he  finde  variance. 
She  was  aye  one  in  heart  and  in  visage. 
And  aye  the  farther  that  she  was  in  age. 
The  more  true  (if  that  it  were  possible) 
She  was  to  him  in  love,  and  more  penible.* 


''spirit 


*painstaking  in  devotion 


For  which  it  seemed  thus,  that  of  them  two 
There  was  but  one  will;  for,  as  Walter  lest,* 
The  same  pleasance  was  her  lust*  also; 
And,  God  be  thanked,  all  fell  for  the  best. 
She  shewed  well,  for  no  worldly  unrest, 
A  wife  as  of  herself  no  thinge  should 
Will,  in  effect,  but  as  her  husbaud  would. 


*pleased 
*pleasure 


The  sland'r  of  Walter  wondrous  wide  sprad. 
That  of  a  cruel  heart  he  wickedly. 
For*  he  a  poore  woman  wedded  had. 
Had  murder 'd  both  his  children  privily: 
Such  murmur  was  among  them  commonly. 


*because 


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No  wonder  is:  for  to  the  people's  ear 

There  came  no  word,  but  that  they  murder 'd  were. 


275 


For  which,  whereas  his  people  therebefore 
Had  lov'd  him  well,  the  sland'r  of  his  diffame* 
Made  them  that  they  him  hated  therefore. 
To  be  a  murd'rer  is  a  hateful  name. 
But  natheless,  for  earnest  or  for  game. 
He  of  his  cruel  purpose  would  not  stent; 
To  tempt  his  wife  was  set  all  his  intent. 


*infamy 


When  that  his  daughter  twelve  year  was  of  age. 
He  to  the  Court  of  Rome,  in  subtle  wise 
Informed  of  his  will,  sent  his  message,* 
Commanding  him  such  bulles  to  devise 
As  to  his  cruel  purpose  may  suffice. 
How  that  the  Pope,  for  his  people's  rest. 
Bade  him  to  wed  another,  if  him  lest.* 


messenger 


ished 


I  say  he  bade  they  shoulde  counterfeit 

The  Pope's  bulles,  making  mention 

That  he  had  leave  his  firste  wife  to  lete,*  *leave 

To  stinte*  rancour  and  dissension  *put  an  end  to 

Betwixt  his  people  and  him:  thus  spake  the  bull. 

The  which  they  have  published  at  full. 


The  rude  people,  as  no  wonder  is. 
Weened*  full  well  that  it  had  been  right  so: 
But,  when  these  tidings  came  to  Griseldis. 
I  deeme  that  her  heart  was  full  of  woe; 
But  she,  alike  sad*  for  evermo'. 
Disposed  was,  this  humble  creature, 
Th'  adversity  of  fortune  all  t'  endure; 


*thought,  believed 


*steadfast 


276 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*to  the  utmost  extent 
of  her  power* 


Abiding  ever  his  lust  and  his  pleasance, 
To  whom  that  she  was  given,  heart  and  all, 
As  *to  her  very  worldly  suffisance.* 
But,  shortly  if  this  story  tell  I  shall. 
The  marquis  written  hath  in  special 
A  letter,  in  which  he  shewed  his  intent. 
And  secretly  it  to  Bologna  sent. 


To  th'  earl  of  Panico,  which  hadde  tho*  *there 

Wedded  his  sister,  pray'd  he  specially 

To  bringe  home  again  his  children  two 

In  honourable  estate  all  openly: 

But  one  thing  he  him  prayed  utterly. 

That  he  to  no  wight,  though  men  would  inquere, 

Shoulde  not  tell  whose  children  that  they  were. 

But  say,  the  maiden  should  y-wedded  be 
Unto  the  marquis  of  Saluce  anon. 
And  as  this  earl  was  prayed,  so  did  he. 
For,  at  day  set,  he  on  his  way  is  gone 
Toward  Saluce,  and  lorde's  many  a  one 
In  rich  array,  this  maiden  for  to  guide,  — 
Her  younge  brother  riding  her  beside. 

Arrayed  was  toward*  her  marriage  *as  if  for 

This  freshe  maiden,  full  of  gemmes  clear; 

Her  brother,  which  that  seven  year  was  of  age. 

Arrayed  eke  full  fresh  in  his  mannere: 

And  thus,  in  great  nobless,  and  with  glad  cheer. 

Toward  Saluces  shaping  their  journey. 

From  day  to  day  they  rode  upon  their  way. 


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*Pars  Quinta.*  *Fifth  Part* 


277 


*Among  all  this,*  after  his  wick'  usage. 

The  marquis,  yet  his  wife  to  tempte  more 

To  the  uttermost  proof  of  her  corage. 

Fully  to  have  experience  and  lore* 

If  that  she  were  as  steadfast  as  before. 

He  on  a  day,  in  open  audience. 

Full  boisterously  said  her  this  sentence: 

"Certes,  Griseld',  I  had  enough  pleasance 
To  have  you  to  my  wife,  for  your  goodness. 
And  for  your  truth,  and  for  your  obeisance. 
Not  for  your  lineage,  nor  for  your  richess; 
But  now  know  I,  in  very  soothfastness. 
That  in  great  lordship,  if  I  well  advise. 
There  is  great  servitude  in  sundry  wise. 

"I  may  not  do  as  every  ploughman  may: 
My  people  me  constraineth  for  to  take 
Another  wife,  and  cryeth  day  by  day; 
And  eke  the  Pope,  rancour  for  to  slake, 
Consenteth  it,  that  dare  I  undertake: 
And  truely,  thus  much  I  will  you  say. 
My  newe  wife  is  coming  by  the  way. 

"Be  strong  of  heart,  and  *void  anon*  her  place; 
And  thilke*  dower  that  ye  brought  to  me. 
Take  it  again,  I  grant  it  of  my  grace. 
Returne  to  your  father's  house,"  quoth  he; 
"No  man  may  always  have  prosperity; 
With  even  heart  I  rede*  you  to  endure 
The  stroke  of  fortune  or  of  aventure." 


*while  all  this  was 
going  on* 

*knowledge 


*immediately  vacate* 
*that 


*counsel 


278 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  she  again  answer 'd  in  patience: 

"My  Lord,"  quoth  she,  "I  know,  and  knew  alway. 

How  that  betwixte  your  magnificence 

And  my  povert'  no  wight  nor  can  nor  may 

Make  comparison,  it  *is  no  nay;*  *cannot  be  denied* 

I  held  me  never  digne*  in  no  mannere  *worthy 

To  be  your  wife,  nor  yet  your  chamberere.*  *chamber-maid 


"And  in  this  house,  where  ye  me  lady  made, 
(The  highe  God  take  I  for  my  witness. 
And  all  so  wisly*  he  my  soule  glade),** 
I  never  held  me  lady  nor  mistress. 
But  humble  servant  to  your  worthiness. 
And  ever  shall,  while  that  my  life  may  dure, 
Aboven  every  worldly  creature. 


*surely  **gladdened 


"That  ye  so  long,  of  your  benignity. 
Have  holden  me  in  honour  and  nobley* 
Where  as  I  was  not  worthy  for  to  be. 
That  thank  I  God  and  you,  to  whom  I  pray 
Foryield*  it  you;  there  is  no  more  to  say: 
Unto  my  father  gladly  will  I  wend,* 
And  with  him  dwell,  unto  my  lifes  end. 


*nobility 
*reward 


"Where  I  was  foster 'd  as  a  child  full  small. 
Till  I  be  dead  my  life  there  will  I  lead, 
A  widow  clean  in  body,  heart,  and  all. 
For  since  I  gave  to  you  my  maidenhead. 
And  am  your  true  wife,  it  is  no  dread,* 
God  shielde*  such  a  lordes  wife  to  take 
Another  man  to  husband  or  to  make.* 


*doubt 
*forbid 
*mate 


"And  of  your  newe  wife,  God  of  his  grace 


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So  grant  you  weal  and  all  prosperity: 
For  I  will  gladly  yield  to  her  my  place. 
In  which  that  I  was  blissful  wont  to  be. 
For  since  it  liketh  you,  my  Lord,"  quoth  she, 
"That  whilom  weren  all  mine  hearte  s  rest. 
That  I  shall  go,  I  will  go  when  you  lest. 

"But  whereas  ye  me  proffer  such  dowaire 
As  I  first  brought,  it  is  well  in  my  mind. 
It  was  my  wretched  clothes,  nothing  fair. 
The  which  to  me  were  hard  now  for  to  find. 
O  goode  God!  how  gentle  and  how  kind 
Ye  seemed  by  your  speech  and  your  visage. 
The  day  that  maked  was  our  marriage! 


279 


"But  sooth  is  said,  —  algate*  I  find  it  true. 
For  in  effect  it  proved  is  on  me,  — 
Love  is  not  old  as  when  that  it  is  new. 
But  certes.  Lord,  for  no  adversity. 
To  dien  in  this  case,  it  shall  not  be 
That  e'er  in  word  or  work  I  shall  repent 
That  I  you  gave  mine  heart  in  whole  intent. 


*at  all  events 


"My  Lord,  ye  know  that  in  my  father's  place 
Ye  did  me  strip  out  of  my  poore  weed,* 
And  richely  ye  clad  me  of  your  grace; 
To  you  brought  I  nought  elles,  out  of  dread. 
But  faith,  and  nakedness,  and  maidenhead; 
And  here  again  your  clothing  I  restore. 
And  eke  your  wedding  ring  for  evermore. 


raiment 


"The  remnant  of  your  jewels  ready  be 
Within  your  chamber,  I  dare  safely  sayn: 
Naked  out  of  my  father's  house,"  quoth  she. 


280 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"I  came,  and  naked  I  must  turn  again. 

All  your  pleasance  would  I  follow  fain:*  *cheerfully 

But  yet  I  hope  it  be  not  your  intent 

That  smockless*  I  out  of  your  palace  went.  *naked 

"Ye  could  not  do  so  dishonest*  a  thing,  *dishonourable 

That  thilke*  womb,  in  which  your  children  lay,  *that 

Shoulde  before  the  people,  in  my  walking. 

Be  seen  all  bare:  and  therefore  I  you  pray. 

Let  me  not  like  a  worm  go  by  the  way: 

Remember  you,  mine  owen  Lord  so  dear, 

I  was  your  wife,  though  I  unworthy  were. 

"Wherefore,  in  guerdon*  of  my  maidenhead,  *reward 

Which  that  I  brought  and  not  again  I  bear. 

As  vouchesafe  to  give  me  to  my  meed*  *reward 

But  such  a  smock  as  I  was  wont  to  wear. 

That  I  therewith  may  wrie*  the  womb  of  her  *cover 

That  was  your  wife:  and  here  I  take  my  leave 

Of  you,  mine  owen  Lord,  lest  I  you  grieve." 

"The  smock,"  quoth  he,  "that  thou  hast  on  thy  back. 

Let  it  be  still,  and  bear  it  forth  with  thee." 

But  well  unnethes*  thilke  word  he  spake,  *with  difficulty 

But  went  his  way  for  ruth  and  for  pity. 

Before  the  folkherselfe  stripped  she. 

And  in  her  smock,  with  foot  and  head  all  bare. 

Toward  her  father's  house  forth  is  she  fare.*  *gone 


The  folk  her  follow'd  weeping  on  her  way. 
And  fortune  aye  they  cursed  as  they  gon:* 
But  she  from  weeping  kept  her  eyen  drey* 
Nor  in  this  time  worde  spake  she  none. 
Her  father,  that  this  tiding  heard  anon. 


*dry 


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281 


Cursed  the  day  and  time,  that  nature 
Shope*  him  to  be  a  living  creature. 


*formed,  ordained 


For,  out  of  doubt,  this  olde  poore  man 

Was  ever  in  suspect  of  her  marriage: 

For  ever  deem'd  he,  since  it  first  began. 

That  when  the  lord  *fulfiird  had  his  corage,*  *had  gratified  his  whim* 

He  woulde  think  it  were  a  disparage*  *disparagement 

To  his  estate,  so  low  for  to  alight. 

And  voide*  her  as  soon  as  e'er  he  might.  *dismiss 


Against*  his  daughter  hastily  went  he 
(For  he  by  noise  of  folk  knew  her  coming). 
And  with  her  olde  coat,  as  it  might  be. 
He  cover'd  her,  full  sorrowfully  weeping: 
But  on  her  body  might  he  it  not  bring. 
For  rude  was  the  cloth,  and  more  of  age 
By  dayes  fele*  than  at  her  marriage. 

Thus  with  her  father  for  a  certain  space 
Dwelled  this  flow'r  of  wifely  patience. 
That  neither  by  her  words  nor  by  her  face. 
Before  the  folk  nor  eke  in  their  absence, 
Ne  shewed  she  that  her  was  done  offence. 
Nor  of  her  high  estate  no  remembrance 
Ne  hadde  she,  *as  by*  her  countenance. 

No  wonder  is,  for  in  her  great  estate 
Her  ghost*  was  ever  in  plein**  humility; 
No  tender  mouth,  no  hearte  delicate. 
No  pomp,  and  no  semblant  of  royalty; 
But  full  of  patient  benignity. 
Discreet  and  prideless,  aye  honourable. 
And  to  her  husband  ever  meek  and  stable. 


to  meet 


*many  <  1 1  > 


*to  judge  from* 
*spirit  **full 


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Men  speak  of  Job,  and  most  for  his  humbless, 
As  clerkes,  when  them  list,  can  well  indite. 

Namely*  of  men;  but,  as  in  soothfastness,  *particularly 

Though  clerkes  praise  women  but  a  lite,*  *little 

There  can  no  man  in  humbless  him  acquite 
As  women  can,  nor  can  be  half  so  true 

As  women  be,  *but  it  be  fall  of  new*  *unless  it  has  lately 

come  to  pass* 


*Pars  Sexta* 


*Sixth  Part* 


From  Bologn'  is  the  earl  of  Panic'  come. 

Of  which  the  fame  up  sprang  to  more  and  less; 

And  to  the  people's  eares  all  and  some 

Was  know'n  eke,  that  a  newe  marchioness 

He  with  him  brought,  in  such  pomp  and  richess 

That  never  was  there  seen  with  manne's  eye 

So  noble  array  in  all  West  Lombardy 

The  marquis,  which  that  shope*  and  knew  all  this,  *arranged 

Ere  that  the  earl  was  come,  sent  his  message*  *messenger 

For  thilke  poore  sely*  Griseldis;  *innocent 
And  she,  with  humble  heart  and  glad  visage. 

Nor  with  no  swelling  thought  in  her  corage,*  *mind 

Came  at  his  best,*  and  on  her  knees  her  set,  *command 

And  rev'rently  and  wisely  she  him  gret.*  *greeted 


"Griseld',"  quoth  he,  "my  will  is  utterly. 
This  maiden,  that  shall  wedded  be  to  me. 
Received  be  to-morrow  as  royally 
As  it  possible  is  in  my  house  to  be; 
And  eke  that  every  wight  in  his  degree 
Have  *his  estate*  in  sitting  and  service. 


*what  befits  his 


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And  in  high  pleasance,  as  I  can  devise. 


condition* 


283 


"I  have  no  women  sufficient,  certain. 

The  chambers  to  array  in  ordinance 

After  my  lust;*  and  therefore  would  I  fain  *pleasure 

That  thine  were  all  such  manner  governance: 

Thou  knowest  eke  of  old  all  my  pleasance; 

Though  thine  array  be  bad,  and  ill  besey,*  *poor  to  look  on 

*Do  thou  thy  devoir  at  the  leaste  way"*  *  do  your  duty  in  the 

quickest  manner* 
"Not  only.  Lord,  that  I  am  glad,"  quoth  she, 
"To  do  your  lust,  but  I  desire  also 
You  for  to  serve  and  please  in  my  degree, 
Withoute  fainting,  and  shall  evermo': 
Nor  ever  for  no  weal,  nor  for  no  woe, 

Ne  shall  the  ghost*  within  mine  hearte  stent**  *spirit  **cease 

To  love  you  best  with  all  my  true  intent." 


And  with  that  word  she  gan  the  house  to  dight,* 
And  tables  for  to  set,  and  beds  to  make. 
And  *pained  her*  to  do  all  that  she  might. 
Praying  the  chambereres*  for  Godde's  sake 
To  hasten  them,  and  faste  sweep  and  shake. 
And  she  the  most  serviceable  of  all 
Hath  ev'ry  chamber  arrayed,  and  his  hall. 


arrange 

*she  took  pains* 
*chamber-maids 


Aboute  undern*  gan  the  earl  alight,  *afternoon  <5> 

That  with  him  brought  these  noble  children  tway; 

For  which  the  people  ran  to  see  the  sight 

Of  their  array,  so  *richely  besey;*  *rich  to  behold* 

And  then  *at  erst*  amonges  them  they  say,  *for  the  first  time* 

That  Walter  was  no  fool,  though  that  him  lest*  *pleased 

To  change  his  wife;  for  it  was  for  the  best. 


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For  she  is  fairer,  as  they  deemen*  all, 

Than  is  Griseld',  and  more  tender  of  age. 

And  fairer  fruit  between  them  shoulde  fall. 

And  more  pleasant,  for  her  high  lineage: 

Her  brother  eke  so  fair  was  of  visage. 

That  them  to  see  the  people  hath  caught  pleasance. 

Commending  now  the  marquis'  governance. 


*think 


"O  stormy  people,  unsad*  and  ev'r  untrue. 
And  undiscreet,  and  changing  as  a  vane. 
Delighting  ev'r  in  rumour  that  is  new. 
For  like  the  moon  so  waxe  ye  and  wane: 
Aye  full  of  clapping,  *dear  enough  a  jane,* 
Your  doom*  is  false,  your  Constance  evil  preveth,^ 
A  full  great  fool  is  he  that  you  believeth." 


*variable 


worth  nothing  <12>* 
^judgment  **proveth 


Thus  saide  the  sad*  folk  in  that  city. 
When  that  the  people  gazed  up  and  down; 
For  they  were  glad,  right  for  the  novelty. 
To  have  a  newe  lady  of  their  town. 
No  more  of  this  now  make  I  mentioun. 
But  to  Griseld'  again  I  will  me  dress. 
And  tell  her  constancy  and  business. 


*sedate 


Full  busy  was  Griseld'  in  ev'ry  thing 

That  to  the  feaste  was  appertinent; 

Right  nought  was  she  abash'd*  of  her  clothing. 

Though  it  were  rude,  and  somedeal  eke  to-rent;* 

But  with  glad  cheer*  unto  the  gate  she  went 

With  other  folk,  to  greet  the  marchioness. 

And  after  that  did  forth  her  business. 


*ashamed 
*tattered 
*expression 


With  so  glad  cheer*  his  guestes  she  receiv'd  *expression 

And  so  conningly*  each  in  his  degree,  *cleverly,  skilfully 


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That  no  defaulte  no  man  apperceiv'd. 
But  aye  they  wonder 'd  what  she  mighte  be 
That  in  so  poor  array  was  for  to  see. 
And  coude*  such  honour  and  reverence; 
And  worthily  they  praise  her  prudence. 


285 


*knew,  understood 


In  all  this  meane  while  she  not  stent* 

This  maid,  and  eke  her  brother,  to  commend 

With  all  her  heart  in  full  benign  intent. 

So  well,  that  no  man  could  her  praise  amend: 

But  at  the  last,  when  that  these  lordes  wend* 

To  sitte  down  to  meat,  he  gan  to  call 

Griseld',  as  she  was  busy  in  the  hall. 


*ceased 


'go 


"Griseld',"  quoth  he,  as  it  were  in  his  play, 
"How  liketh  thee  my  wife,  and  her  beauty?" 
"Right  well,  my  Lord,"  quoth  she,  "for,  in  good  fay* 
A  fairer  saw  I  never  none  than  she: 
I  pray  to  God  give  you  prosperity; 
And  so  I  hope,  that  he  will  to  you  send 
Pleasance  enough  unto  your  lives  end. 


*faith 


"One  thing  beseech  I  you,  and  warn  also. 
That  ye  not  pricke  with  no  tormenting 
This  tender  maiden,  as  ye  have  done  mo:* 
For  she  is  foster 'd  in  her  nourishing 
More  tenderly,  and,  to  my  supposing. 
She  mighte  not  adversity  endure 
As  could  a  poore  foster 'd  creature." 


*me<13> 


And  when  this  Walter  saw  her  patience. 
Her  gladde  cheer,  and  no  malice  at  all. 
And*  he  so  often  had  her  done  offence. 
And  she  aye  sad*  and  constant  as  a  wall. 


*although 
*steadfast 


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Continuing  ev'r  her  innocence  o'er  all, 
The  sturdy  marquis  gan  his  hearte  dress* 
To  rue  upon  her  wifely  steadfastness. 

"This  is  enough,  Griselda  mine,"  quoth  he, 

"Be  now  no  more  *aghast,  nor  evil  paid,* 

I  have  thy  faith  and  thy  benignity 

As  well  as  ever  woman  was,  assay 'd. 

In  great  estate  and  poorely  array 'd: 

Now  know  I,  deare  wife,  thy  steadfastness;" 

And  her  in  arms  he  took,  and  gan  to  kiss. 

And  she  for  wonder  took  of  it  no  keep;* 
She  hearde  not  what  thing  he  to  her  said: 
She  far'd  as  she  had  start  out  of  a  sleep. 
Till  she  out  of  her  mazedness  abraid.* 
"Griseld',"  quoth  he,  "by  God  that  for  us  died. 
Thou  art  my  wife,  none  other  I  have. 
Nor  ever  had,  as  God  my  soule  save. 


"This  is  thy  daughter,  which  thou  hast  suppos'd 

To  be  my  wife;  that  other  faithfully 

Shall  be  mine  heir,  as  I  have  aye  dispos'd; 

Thou  bare  them  of  thy  body  truely: 

At  Bologna  kept  I  them  privily: 

Take  them  again,  for  now  may'st  thou  not  say 

That  thou  hast  lorn*  none  of  thy  children  tway. 

"And  folk,  that  otherwise  have  said  of  me, 
I  warn  them  well,  that  I  have  done  this  deed 
For  no  malice,  nor  for  no  cruelty. 
But  to  assay  in  thee  thy  womanhead: 
And  not  to  slay  my  children  (God  forbid). 
But  for  to  keep  them  privily  and  still. 


prepare 


*afraid,  nor  displeased* 


notice 


*awoke 


*lost 


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Till  I  thy  purpose  knew,  and  all  thy  will." 

When  she  this  heard,  in  swoon  adown  she  falleth 

For  piteous  joy;  and  after  her  swooning. 

She  both  her  younge  children  to  her  calleth. 

And  in  her  armes  piteously  weeping 

Embraced  them,  and  tenderly  kissing. 

Full  like  a  mother,  with  her  salte  tears 

She  bathed  both  their  visage  and  their  hairs. 

O,  what  a  piteous  thing  it  was  to  see 

Her  swooning,  and  her  humble  voice  to  hear! 

"Grand  mercy.  Lord,  God  thank  it  you,"  quoth  she. 

That  ye  have  saved  me  my  children  dear; 

Now  reck*  I  never  to  be  dead  right  here;  *care 

Since  I  stand  in  your  love,  and  in  your  grace. 

No  *force  oP  death,  nor  when  my  spirit  pace.*      *no  matter  for*  *pass 


"O  tender,  O  dear,  O  young  children  mine. 

Your  woeful  mother  *weened  steadfastly* 

That  cruel  houndes,  or  some  foul  vermine. 

Had  eaten  you;  but  God  of  his  mercy. 

And  your  benigne  father  tenderly 

Have  *done  you  keep:"*  and  in  that  same  stound* 

All  suddenly  she  swapt**  down  to  the  ground. 

*hour  **fell 
And  in  her  swoon  so  sadly*  holdeth  she 
Her  children  two,  when  she  gan  them  embrace. 
That  with  great  sleight*  and  great  difficulty 
The  children  from  her  arm  they  can  arace,* 
O!  many  a  tear  on  many  a  piteous  face 
Down  ran  of  them  that  stoode  her  beside, 
Unneth'*  aboute  her  might  they  abide. 


*believed  firmly* 


*caused  you  to 
be  preserved* 

*firmly 

*art 
*pull  away 


*scarcely 


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289 


Walter  her  gladdeth,  and  her  sorrow  slaketh:*  *assuages 

She  riseth  up  abashed*  from  her  trance,  *astonished 

And  every  wight  her  joy  and  feaste  maketh, 

Till  she  hath  caught  again  her  countenance. 

Walter  her  doth  so  faithfully  pleasance, 

That  it  was  dainty  for  to  see  the  cheer 

Betwixt  them  two,  since  they  be  met  in  fere.*  *together 

The  ladies,  when  that  they  their  time  sey,*  *saw 

Have  taken  her,  and  into  chamber  gone. 

And  stripped  her  out  of  her  rude  array. 

And  in  a  cloth  of  gold  that  brightly  shone. 

And  with  a  crown  of  many  a  riche  stone 

Upon  her  head,  they  into  hall  her  brought: 

And  there  she  was  honoured  as  her  ought. 

Thus  had  this  piteous  day  a  blissful  end; 

For  every  man  and  woman  did  his  might 

This  day  in  mirth  and  revel  to  dispend. 

Till  on  the  welkin*  shone  the  starres  bright:  *firmament 

For  more  solemn  in  every  mannes  sight 

This  feaste  was,  and  greater  of  costage,*  *expense 

Than  was  the  revel  of  her  marriage. 

Full  many  a  year  in  high  prosperity 
Lived  these  two  in  concord  and  in  rest; 
And  richely  his  daughter  married  he 
Unto  a  lord,  one  of  the  worthiest 
Of  all  Itale;  and  then  in  peace  and  rest 
His  wife's  father  in  his  court  he  kept. 
Till  that  the  soul  out  of  his  body  crept. 

His  son  succeeded  in  his  heritage. 

In  rest  and  peace,  after  his  father's  day: 


And  fortunate  was  eke  in  marriage. 

All*  he  put  not  his  wife  in  great  assay: 

This  world  is  not  so  strong,  it  *is  no  nay,* 

As  it  hath  been  in  olde  times  yore; 

And  hearken  what  this  author  saith,  therefore; 

This  story  is  said,  <  14>  not  for  that  wives  should 

Follow  Griselda  in  humility. 

For  it  were  importable*  though  they  would; 

But  for  that  every  wight  in  his  degree 

Shoulde  be  constant  in  adversity. 

As  was  Griselda;  therefore  Petrarch  writeth 

This  story,  which  with  high  style  he  inditeth. 

For,  since  a  woman  was  so  patient 
Unto  a  mortal  man,  well  more  we  ought 
Receiven  all  in  gree*  that  God  us  sent. 
*For  great  skill  is  he  proved  that  he  wrought:* 
But  he  tempteth  no  man  that  he  hath  bought. 
As  saith  Saint  James,  if  ye  his  pistle  read; 
He  proveth  folk  all  day,  it  is  no  dread.* 

And  suffereth  us,  for  our  exercise. 
With  sharp  e  scourges  of  adversity 
Full  often  to  be  beat  in  sundry  wise; 
Not  for  to  know  our  will,  for  certes  he. 
Ere  we  were  born,  knew  all  our  frailty; 
And  for  our  best  is  all  his  governance; 
Let  us  then  live  in  virtuous  sufferance. 

But  one  word,  lordings,  hearken,  ere  I  go: 
It  were  full  hard  to  fmde  now-a-days 
In  all  a  town  Griseldas  three  or  two: 
For,  if  that  they  were  put  to  such  assays. 


*although 
^not  to  be  denied* 


*not  to  be  borne 


good-will 
*seenote  <15>* 


*doubt 


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The  gold  of  them  hath  now  so  bad  allays* 
With  brass,  that  though  the  coin  be  fair  *at  eye,* 
It  woulde  rather  break  in  two  than  ply* 

For  which  here,  for  the  Wife's  love  of  Bath,  — 
Whose  life  and  all  her  sex  may  God  maintain 
In  high  mast'ry,  and  elles  were  it  scath,*  — 
I  will,  with  lusty  hearte  fresh  and  green. 
Say  you  a  song  to  gladden  you,  I  ween: 
And  let  us  stint  of  earnestful  mattere. 
Hearken  my  song,  that  saith  in  this  mannere. 


UEnvoy  of  Chaucer. 


"Griseld'  is  dead,  and  eke  her  patience. 
And  both  at  once  are  buried  in  Itale: 
For  which  I  cry  in  open  audience. 
No  wedded  man  so  hardy  be  t'  assail 
His  wife's  patience,  in  trust  to  fmd 
Griselda's,  for  in  certain  he  shall  fail. 

"O  noble  wives,  full  of  high  prudence. 

Let  no  humility  your  tongues  nail: 

Nor  let  no  clerk  have  cause  or  diligence 

To  write  of  you  a  story  of  such  marvail. 

As  of  Griselda  patient  and  kind. 

Lest  Chichevache<  16>  you  swallow  in  her  entrail. 


*alloys 
*to  see* 
*bend 


*damage,  pity 


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Imprinte  well  this  lesson  in  your  mind. 
For  common  profit,  since  it  may  avail. 

"Ye  archiwives,*  stand  aye  at  defence,  *wives  of  rank 

Since  ye  be  strong  as  is  a  great  camail,*  *camel 

Nor  suffer  not  that  men  do  you  offence. 

And  slender  wives,  feeble  in  battail. 

Be  eager  as  a  tiger  yond  in  Ind; 

Aye  clapping  as  a  mill,  I  you  counsail. 

"Nor  dread  them  not,  nor  do  them  reverence; 

For  though  thine  husband  armed  be  in  mail. 

The  arrows  of  thy  crabbed  eloquence 

Shall  pierce  his  breast,  and  eke  his  aventail;<18> 

In  jealousy  I  rede*  eke  thou  him  bind,  *advise 

And  thou  shalt  make  him  couch*  as  doth  a  quail.  *submit,  shrink 

"If  thou  be  fair,  where  folk  be  in  presence 

Shew  thou  thy  visage  and  thine  apparail: 

If  thou  be  foul,  be  free  of  thy  dispence; 

To  get  thee  friendes  aye  do  thy  travail: 

Be  aye  of  cheer  as  light  as  leaf  on  lind,*  *linden,  lime-tree 

And  let  him  care,  and  weep,  and  wring,  and  wail." 


"Follow  Echo,  that  holdeth  no  silence. 
But  ever  answereth  at  the  countertail;* 
Be  not  bedaffed*  for  your  innocence. 
But  sharply  take  on  you  the  governail;* 


*counter-tally  <17> 
*befooled 
*helm 


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293 


rjit4  lya/e. 


The  Prologue. 

"Weeping  and  wailing,  care  and  other  sorrow, 

I  have  enough,  on  even  and  on  morrow," 

Quoth  the  Merchant,  "and  so  have  other  mo'. 

That  wedded  be;  I  trow*  that  it  be  so;  *believe 

For  well  I  wot  it  fareth  so  by  me. 

I  have  a  wife,  the  worste  that  may  be. 

For  though  the  fiend  to  her  y-coupled  were. 

She  would  him  overmatch,  I  dare  well  swear. 

Why  should  I  you  rehearse  in  special 

Her  high  malice?  she  is  *a  shrew  at  all.* 

There  is  a  long  and  large  difference 

Betwixt  Griselda's  greate  patience. 

And  of  my  wife  the  passing  cruelty. 

Were  I  unbounden,  all  so  may  I  the,* 

I  woulde  never  eft*  come  in  the  snare. 

We  wedded  men  live  in  sorrow  and  care; 

Assay  it  whoso  will,  and  he  shall  fmd 

That  I  say  sooth,  by  Saint  Thomas  of  Ind,<2> 

As  for  the  more  part;  I  say  not  all,  — 

God  shielde*  that  it  shoulde  so  befall.  *forbid 

Ah!  good  Sir  Host,  I  have  y-wedded  be 

These  moneths  two,  and  more  not,  pardie; 

And  yet  I  trow*  that  he  that  all  his  life  *believe 


*thoroughly,  in 
everything  wicked* 


*thrive 
*again 


Wifeless  hath  been,  though  that  men  would  him  rive* 

Into  the  hearte,  could  in  no  mannere 

Telle  so  much  sorrow,  as  I  you  here 

Could  tellen  of  my  wife's  cursedness."*  *wickedness 

"Now,"  quoth  our  Host,  "Merchant,  so  God  you  bless. 
Since  ye  so  muche  knowen  of  that  art. 
Full  heartily  I  pray  you  tell  us  part." 
"Gladly,"  quoth  he;  "but  of  mine  owen  sore. 
For  sorry  heart,  I  telle  may  no  more." 


The  Tale. 

Whilom  there  was  dwelling  in  Lombardy 
A  worthy  knight,  that  born  was  at  Pavie, 
In  which  he  liv'd  in  great  prosperity; 
And  forty  years  a  wifeless  man  was  he. 
And  follow'd  aye  his  bodily  delight 
On  women,  where  as  was  his  appetite. 
As  do  these  fooles  that  be  seculeres.<2> 
And,  when  that  he  was  passed  sixty  years. 
Were  it  for  holiness,  or  for  dotage, 
I  cannot  say,  but  such  a  great  corage* 
Hadde  this  knight  to  be  a  wedded  man. 
That  day  and  night  he  did  all  that  he  can 
To  espy  where  that  he  might  wedded  be; 
Praying  our  Lord  to  grante  him,  that  he 
Mighte  once  knowen  of  that  blissful  life 
That  is  betwixt  a  husband  and  his  wife. 
And  for  to  live  under  that  holy  bond 
With  which  God  firste  man  and  woman  bond. 
"None  other  life,"  said  he,  "is  worth  a  bean; 
For  wedlock  is  so  easy,  and  so  clean. 


wound 


inclination 


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That  in  this  world  it  is  a  paradise." 

Thus  said  this  olde  knight,  that  was  so  wise. 

And  certainly,  as  sooth*  as  God  is  king. 

To  take  a  wife  it  is  a  glorious  thing. 

And  namely*  when  a  man  is  old  and  hoar. 

Then  is  a  wife  the  fruit  of  his  treasor; 

Then  should  he  take  a  young  wife  and  a  fair. 

On  which  he  might  engender  him  an  heir. 

And  lead  his  life  in  joy  and  in  solace;* 

Whereas  these  bachelors  singen  "Alas!" 

When  that  they  fmd  any  adversity 

In  love,  which  is  but  childish  vanity. 

And  truely  it  sits*  well  to  be  so. 

That  bachelors  have  often  pain  and  woe: 

On  brittle  ground  they  build,  and  brittleness 

They  fmde  when  they  *weene  sickerness:* 

They  live  but  as  a  bird  or  as  a  beast. 

In  liberty,  and  under  no  arrest;* 

Whereas  a  wedded  man  in  his  estate 

Liveth  a  life  blissful  and  ordinate. 

Under  the  yoke  of  marriage  y-bound; 

Well  may  his  heart  in  joy  and  bliss  abound. 

For  who  can  be  so  buxom*  as  a  wife? 

Who  is  so  true,  and  eke  so  attentive 

To  keep*  him,  sick  and  whole,  as  is  his  make?** 

For  weal  or  woe  she  will  him  not  forsake: 

She  is  not  weary  him  to  love  and  serve. 

Though  that  he  lie  bedrid  until  he  sterve.* 

And  yet  some  clerkes  say  it  is  not  so; 

Of  which  he,  Theophrast,  is  one  of  tho:* 

*What  force*  though  Theophrast  list  for  to  lie? 


"true 


*especially 


^mirth,  delight 


becomes,  befits 


*think  that  there 
is  security* 
check,  control 


*obedient 


*care  for  **mate 


*die 

*those 
*what  matter* 


"Take  no  wife,"  quoth  he,  <3>  "for  husbandry,* 
As  for  to  spare  in  household  thy  dispence; 


*thrift 


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P  ittp://collegebookshelf.net  295 

A  true  servant  doth  more  diligence 

Thy  good  to  keep,  than  doth  thine  owen  wife. 

For  she  will  claim  a  half  part  all  her  life. 

And  if  that  thou  be  sick,  so  God  me  save. 

Thy  very  friendes,  or  a  true  knave,*  *servant 

Will  keep  thee  bet  than  she,  that  *waiteth  aye  *ahways  waits  to 

After  thy  good,*  and  hath  done  many  a  day."       inherit  your  property* 

This  sentence,  and  a  hundred  times  worse, 

Writeth  this  man,  there  God  his  bones  curse. 

But  take  no  keep*  of  all  such  vanity,  *notice 

Defy*  Theophrast,  and  hearken  to  me.  *distrust 


A  wife  is  Godde's  gifte  verily; 

All  other  manner  giftes  hardily,* 

As  handes,  rentes,  pasture,  or  commune,* 

Or  mebles,*  all  be  giftes  of  fortune. 

That  passen  as  a  shadow  on  the  wall: 

But  dread*  thou  not,  if  plainly  speak  I  shall, 

A  wife  will  last,  and  in  thine  house  endure. 

Well  longer  than  thee  list,  paraventure.* 

Marriage  is  a  full  great  sacrament; 

He  which  that  hath  no  wife,  I  hold  him  shent;* 

He  liveth  helpless,  and  all  desolate 

(I  speak  of  folk  *in  secular  estate*): 

And  hearken  why,  I  say  not  this  for  nought,  — 

That  woman  is  for  manne's  help  y-wrought. 

The  highe  God,  when  he  had  Adam  maked. 

And  saw  him  all  alone  belly  naked, 

God  of  his  greate  goodness  saide  then. 

Let  us  now  make  a  help  unto  this  man 

Like  to  himself;  and  then  he  made  him  Eve. 

Here  may  ye  see,  and  hereby  may  ye  preve,* 

That  a  wife  is  man  s  help  and  his  comfort. 

His  paradise  terrestre  and  his  disport. 


*truly 

*common  land 
*furniture  <4> 

*doubt 

*perhaps 

*ruined 

*who  are  not 

of  the  clergy* 


prove 


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297 


So  buxom*  and  so  virtuous  is  she, 

They  muste  needes  live  in  unity; 

One  flesh  they  be,  and  one  blood,  as  I  guess. 

With  but  one  heart  in  weal  and  in  distress. 

A  wife?  Ah!  Saint  Mary,  ben'dicite. 

How  might  a  man  have  any  adversity 

That  hath  a  wife?  certes  I  cannot  say 

The  bliss  the  which  that  is  betwixt  them  tway. 

There  may  no  tongue  it  tell,  or  hearte  think. 

If  he  be  poor,  she  helpeth  him  to  swink;* 

She  keeps  his  good,  and  wasteth  never  a  deal;* 

All  that  her  husband  list,  her  liketh*  well; 

She  saith  not  ones  Nay,  when  he  saith  Yea; 

"Do  this,"  saith  he;  "All  ready.  Sir,"  saith  she. 

O  blissful  order,  wedlock  precious! 

Thou  art  so  merry,  and  eke  so  virtuous. 

And  so  commended  and  approved  eke. 

That  every  man  that  holds  him  worth  a  leek 

Upon  his  bare  knees  ought  all  his  life 

To  thank  his  God,  that  him  hath  sent  a  wife; 

Or  elles  pray  to  God  him  for  to  send 

A  wife,  to  last  unto  his  life's  end. 

For  then  his  life  is  set  in  sickerness,* 

He  may  not  be  deceived,  as  I  guess. 

So  that  he  work  after  his  wife's  rede;* 

Then  may  he  boldely  bear  up  his  head. 

They  be  so  true,  and  therewithal  so  wise. 

For  which,  if  thou  wilt  worken  as  the  wise. 

Do  alway  so  as  women  will  thee  rede.  * 

Lo  how  that  Jacob,  as  these  clerkes  read. 

By  good  counsel  of  his  mother  Rebecc' 

Bounde  the  kiddes  skin  about  his  neck; 

For  which  his  father's  benison*  he  wan. 

Lo  Judith,  as  the  story  telle  can. 


obedient,  complying 


*labour 
*whit 
*pleaseth 


security 


*counsel 


*counsel 


*benediction 


By  good  counsel  she  Godde's  people  kept. 

And  slew  him,  Holofernes,  while  he  slept. 

Lo  Abigail,  by  good  counsel,  how  she 

Saved  her  husband  Nabal,  when  that  he 

Should  have  been  slain.  And  lo,  Esther  also 

By  counsel  good  deliver'd  out  of  woe 

The  people  of  God,  and  made  him,  Mardoche, 

Of  Assuere  enhanced*  for  to  be.  *advanced  in  dignity 

There  is  nothing  *in  gree  superlative*  *of  higher  esteem* 

(As  saith  Senec)  above  a  humble  wife. 

Suffer  thy  wife's  tongue,  as  Cato  bit;*  *bid 

She  shall  command,  and  thou  shalt  suffer  it. 

And  yet  she  will  obey  of  courtesy. 

A  wife  is  keeper  of  thine  husbandry: 

Well  may  the  sicke  man  bewail  and  weep. 

There  as  there  is  no  wife  the  house  to  keep. 

I  warne  thee,  if  wisely  thou  wilt  wirch,*  *work 

Love  well  thy  wife,  as  Christ  loveth  his  church: 

Thou  lov'st  thyself,  if  thou  lovest  thy  wife. 

No  man  hateth  his  flesh,  but  in  his  life 

He  fost'reth  it;  and  therefore  bid  I  thee 

Cherish  thy  wife,  or  thou  shalt  never  the.*  *thrive 

Husband  and  wife,  what  *so  men  jape  or  play,*  *although  men  joke 

Of  worldly  folk  holde  the  sicker*  way;  and  jeer*  *certain 

They  be  so  knit  there  may  no  harm  betide. 

And  namely*  upon  the  wife's  side.  *  especially 

For  which  this  January,  of  whom  I  told. 

Consider 'd  hath  within  his  dayes  old. 

The  lusty  life,  the  virtuous  quiet. 

That  is  in  marriage  honey-sweet. 

And  for  his  friends  upon  a  day  he  sent 

To  tell  them  the  effect  of  his  intent. 

With  face  sad,*  his  tale  he  hath  them  told:  *grave,  earnest 


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He  saide,  "Friendes,  I  am  hoar  and  old, 
And  almost  (God  wot)  on  my  pitte's*  brink, 
Upon  my  soule  somewhat  must  I  think. 
I  have  my  body  foolishly  dispended. 
Blessed  be  God  that  it  shall  be  amended; 
For  I  will  be  certain  a  wedded  man. 
And  that  anon  in  all  the  haste  I  can. 
Unto  some  maiden,  fair  and  tender  of  age; 
I  pray  you  shape*  for  my  marriage  ' 

All  suddenly,  for  I  will  not  abide: 
And  I  will  fond*  to  espy,  on  my  side. 
To  whom  I  maybe  wedded  hastily. 
But  forasmuch  as  ye  be  more  than. 
Ye  shalle  rather*  such  a  thing  espy 
Than  I,  and  where  me  best  were  to  ally. 
But  one  thing  warn  I  you,  my  friendes  dear, 
I  will  none  old  wife  have  in  no  mannere: 
She  shall  not  passe  sixteen  year  certain. 
Old  fish  and  younge  flesh  would  I  have  fain. 
Better,"  quoth  he,  "a  pike  than  a  pickerel,* 
And  better  than  old  beef  is  tender  veal. 
I  will  no  woman  thirty  year  of  age. 
It  is  but  beanestraw  and  great  forage. 
And  eke  these  olde  widows  (God  it  wot) 
They  conne*  so  much  craft  on  Wade's  boat,<5: 
*So  muche  brooke  harm  when  that  them  lest,* 
That  with  them  should  I  never  live  in  rest. 
For  sundry  schooles  make  subtle  clerkes; 
Woman  of  many  schooles  half  a  clerk  is. 
But  certainly  a  young  thing  men  may  guy* 
Right  as  men  may  warm  wax  with  handes  ply* 
Wherefore  I  say  you  plainly  in  a  clause, 
I  will  none  old  wife  have,  right  for  this  cause. 
For  if  so  were  I  hadde  such  mischance. 


grave  s 


arrange,  contrive 


*try 


*young  pike 


*know 
*they  can  do  so  much 
harm  when  they  wish* 


*guide 
*bend,mould 


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299 


That  I  in  her  could  have  no  pleasance. 

Then  should  I  lead  my  life  in  avoutrie,*  *adultery 

And  go  straight  to  the  devil  when  I  die. 

Nor  children  should  I  none  upon  her  getten: 

Yet  *were  me  lever*  houndes  had  me  eaten  *I  would  rather* 

Than  that  mine  heritage  shoulde  fall 

In  strange  hands:  and  this  I  tell  you  all. 

I  doubte  not  I  know  the  cause  why 

Men  shoulde  wed:  and  farthermore  know  I 

There  speaketh  many  a  man  of  marriage 

That  knows  no  more  of  it  than  doth  my  page. 

For  what  causes  a  man  should  take  a  wife. 

If  he  ne  may  not  live  chaste  his  life. 

Take  him  a  wife  with  great  devotion. 

Because  of  lawful  procreation 

Of  children,  to  th'  honour  of  God  above. 

And  not  only  for  paramour  or  love; 

And  for  they  shoulde  lechery  eschew. 

And  yield  their  debte  when  that  it  is  due: 

Or  for  that  each  of  them  should  help  the  other 

In  mischief,*  as  a  sister  shall  the  brother,  *trouble 

And  live  in  chastity  full  holily 

But,  Sires,  by  your  leave,  that  am  not  I, 

For,  God  be  thanked,  I  dare  make  avaunt,*  *boast 

I  feel  my  limbes  stark*  and  suffisant  *strong 

To  do  all  that  a  man  belongeth  to: 

I  wot  myselfe  best  what  I  may  do. 

Though  I  be  hoar,  I  fare  as  doth  a  tree. 

That  blossoms  ere  the  fruit  y-waxen*  be;  *grown 

The  blossomy  tree  is  neither  dry  nor  dead; 

I  feel  me  now  here  hoar  but  on  my  head. 

Mine  heart  and  all  my  limbes  are  as  green 

As  laurel  through  the  year  is  for  to  seen.*  *see 

And,  since  that  ye  have  heard  all  mine  intent. 


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I  pray  you  to  my  will  ye  would  assent." 

Diverse  men  diversely  him  told 

Of  marriage  many  examples  old; 

Some  blamed  it,  some  praised  it,  certain; 

But  at  the  haste,  shortly  for  to  sayn 

(As  all  day*  falleth  altercation  *constantly,  every  day 

Betwixte  friends  in  disputation). 

There  fell  a  strife  betwixt  his  brethren  two. 

Of  which  that  one  was  called  Placebo, 

Justinus  soothly  called  was  that  other. 


Placebo  said;  "O  January,  brother. 

Full  little  need  have  ye,  my  lord  so  dear. 

Counsel  to  ask  of  any  that  is  here: 

But  that  ye  be  so  full  of  sapience. 

That  you  not  liketh,  for  your  high  prudence. 

To  waive*  from  the  word  of  Solomon. 

This  word  said  he  unto  us  every  one; 

Work  alle  thing  by  counsel,  —  thus  said  he,  — 

And  thenne  shalt  thou  not  repente  thee 

But  though  that  Solomon  spake  such  a  word. 

Mine  owen  deare  brother  and  my  lord. 

So  wisly*  God  my  soule  bring  at  rest, 

I  hold  your  owen  counsel  is  the  best. 

For,  brother  mine,  take  of  me  this  motive;  * 

I  have  now  been  a  court-man  all  my  life. 

And,  God  it  wot,  though  I  unworthy  be, 

I  have  standen  in  full  great  degree 

Aboute  lordes  of  full  high  estate; 

Yet  had  I  ne'er  with  none  of  them  debate; 

I  never  them  contraried  truely 

I  know  well  that  my  lord  can*  more  than  I; 

What  that  he  saith  I  hold  it  firm  and  stable, 


*depart,  deviate 


*surely 
*advice,  encouragement 


*knows 


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I  say  the  same,  or  else  a  thing  semblable. 

A  full  great  fool  is  any  counsellor 

That  serveth  any  lord  of  high  honour 

That  dare  presume,  or  ones  thinken  it; 

That  his  counsel  should  pass  his  lorde's  wit. 

Nay,  lordes  be  no  fooles  by  my  fay. 

Ye  have  yourselfe  shewed  here  to  day 

So  high  sentence,*  so  holily  and  well 

That  I  consent,  and  confirm  *every  deal* 

Your  wordes  all,  and  your  opinioun 

By  God,  there  is  no  man  in  all  this  town 

Nor  in  Itale,  could  better  have  y-said. 

Christ  holds  him  of  this  counsel  well  apaid.* 

And  truely  it  is  a  high  courage 

Of  any  man  that  stopen*  is  in  age. 

To  take  a  young  wife,  by  my  father's  kin; 

Your  hearte  hangeth  on  a  jolly  pin. 

Do  now  in  this  matter  right  as  you  lest. 

For  finally  I  hold  it  for  the  best." 


301 


*judgment,  sentiment 
*in  every  point* 


*satisfied 


*advanced  <6> 


Justinus,  that  aye  stille  sat  and  heard. 

Right  in  this  wise  to  Placebo  answer 'd. 

"Now,  brother  mine,  be  patient  I  pray. 

Since  ye  have  said,  and  hearken  what  I  say. 

Senec,  among  his  other  wordes  wise, 

Saith,  that  a  man  ought  him  right  well  advise,* 

To  whom  he  gives  his  hand  or  his  chattel. 

And  since  I  ought  advise  me  right  well 

To  whom  I  give  my  good  away  from  me. 

Well  more  I  ought  advise  me,  pardie. 

To  whom  I  give  my  body:  for  alway 

I  warn  you  well  it  is  no  childe's  play 

To  take  a  wife  without  advisement. 

Men  must  inquire  (this  is  mine  assent) 


*consider 


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Whe'er  she  be  wise,  or  sober,  or  dronkelew,*  *given  to  drink 

Or  proud,  or  any  other  ways  a  shrew, 

A  chidester,*  or  a  waster  of  thy  good,  *a  scold 

Or  rich  or  poor;  or  else  a  man  is  wood.*  *mad 

Albeit  so,  that  no  man  fmde  shall 

None  in  this  world,  that  *trotteth  whole  in  all,*  *is  sound  in 

No  man,  nor  beast,  such  as  men  can  devise,*     every  point*  *describe 

But  nathehess  it  ought  enough  suffice 

With  any  wife,  if  so  were  that  she  had 

More  goode  thewes*  than  her  vices  bad:  *  qualities 

And  all  this  asketh  leisure  to  inquere. 

For,  God  it  wot,  I  have  wept  many  a  tear 

Full  privily,  since  I  have  had  a  wife. 

Praise  whoso  will  a  wedded  manne's  life, 

Certes,  I  fmd  in  it  but  cost  and  care. 

And  observances  of  all  blisses  bare. 

And  yet,  God  wot,  my  neighebours  about. 

And  namely*  of  women  many  a  rout,**  *especially  **company 

Say  that  I  have  the  moste  steadfast  wife. 

And  eke  the  meekest  one,  that  beareth  life. 

But  I  know  best  where  wringeth*  me  my  shoe,  *pinches 

Ye  may  for  me  right  as  you  like  do 

Advise  you,  ye  be  a  man  of  age. 

How  that  ye  enter  into  marriage; 

And  namely*  with  a  young  wife  and  a  fair,  *  especially 

By  him  that  made  water,  fire,  earth,  air. 

The  youngest  man  that  is  in  all  this  rout*  *company 

Is  busy  enough  to  bringen  it  about 

To  have  his  wife  alone,  truste  me: 

Ye  shall  not  please  her  fully  yeares  three. 

This  is  to  say,  to  do  her  full  pleasance. 

A  wife  asketh  full  many  an  observance. 

I  pray  you  that  ye  be  not  *evil  apaid."*  *displeased* 


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"Well,"  quoth  this  January,  "and  hast  thou  said? 

Straw  for  thy  Senec,  and  for  thy  proverbs, 

I  counte  not  a  pannier  full  of  herbs 

Of  schoole  termes;  wiser  men  than  thou. 

As  thou  hast  heard,  assented  here  right  now 

To  my  purpose:  Placebo,  what  say  ye?" 

"I  say  it  is  a  cursed*  man,"  quoth  he,  *ill-natured,  wicked 

"That  letteth*  matrimony,  sickerly."  *hindereth 

And  with  that  word  they  rise  up  suddenly. 

And  be  assented  fully,  that  he  should 

Be  wedded  when  him  list,  and  where  he  would. 


303 


High  fantasy  and  curious  business 

From  day  to  day  gan  in  the  soul  impress* 

Of  January  about  his  marriage 

Many  a  fair  shape,  and  many  a  fair  visage 

There  passed  through  his  hearte  night  by  night. 

As  whoso  took  a  mirror  polish'd  bright. 

And  set  it  in  a  common  market-place. 

Then  should  he  see  many  a  figure  pace 

By  his  mirror;  and  in  the  same  wise 

Gan  January  in  his  thought  devise 

Of  maidens,  which  that  dwelte  him  beside: 

He  wiste  not  where  that  he  might  abide.* 

For  if  that  one  had  beauty  in  her  face. 

Another  stood  so  in  the  people's  grace 

For  her  sadness*  and  her  benignity. 

That  of  the  people  greatest  voice  had  she: 

And  some  were  rich  and  had  a  badde  name. 

But  natheless,  betwixt  earnest  and  game. 

He  at  the  last  appointed  him  on  one. 

And  let  all  others  from  his  hearte  gon. 

And  chose  her  of  his  own  authority; 

For  love  is  blind  all  day,  and  may  not  see. 


*imprint  themselves 


^stay,  fix  his  choice 


*sedateness 


304 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  when  that  he  was  into  bed  y-brought, 
He  pourtray'd  in  his  heart  and  in  his  thought 
Her  freshe  beauty,  and  her  age  tender, 
Her  middle  small,  her  armes  long  and  slender. 
Her  wise  governance,  her  gentleness. 
Her  womanly  bearing,  and  her  sadness.* 
And  when  that  he  *on  her  was  condescended,* 
He  thought  his  choice  might  not  be  amended; 
For  when  that  he  himself  concluded  had. 
He  thought  each  other  manne'  s  wit  so  bad. 
That  impossible  it  were  to  reply 
Against  his  choice;  this  was  his  fantasy. 
His  friendes  sent  he  to,  at  his  instance. 
And  prayed  them  to  do  him  that  pleasance. 
That  hastily  they  would  unto  him  come; 
He  would  abridge  their  labour  all  and  some: 
Needed  no  more  for  them  to  go  nor  ride,<7> 
*He  was  appointed  where  he  would  abide.* 


*sedateness 
*had  selected  her* 


*he  had  defmitively 


Placebo  came,  and  eke  his  friendes  soon,  made  his  choice* 

And  *alderfirst  he  bade  them  all  a  boon,*         *first  of  all  he  asked 

That  none  of  them  no  arguments  would  make  a  favour  of  them* 

Against  the  purpose  that  he  had  y-take: 

Which  purpose  was  pleasant  to  God,  said  he. 

And  very  ground  of  his  prosperity. 

He  said,  there  was  a  maiden  in  the  town. 

Which  that  of  beauty  hadde  great  renown; 

All*  were  it  so  she  were  of  small  degree,  *although 

Sufficed  him  her  youth  and  her  beauty; 

Which  maid,  he  said,  he  would  have  to  his  wife. 

To  lead  in  ease  and  holiness  his  life; 

And  thanked  God,  that  he  might  have  her  all. 

That  no  wight  with  his  blisse  parte*  shall;  *have  a  share 

And  prayed  them  to  labour  in  this  need. 


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And  shape  that  he  faile  not  to  speed: 

For  then,  he  said,  his  spirit  was  at  ease. 

"Then  is,"  quoth  he,  "nothing  may  me  displease. 

Save  one  thing  pricketh  in  my  conscience. 

The  which  I  will  rehearse  in  your  presence. 

I  have,"  quoth  he,  "heard  said,  full  yore*  ago,  *long 

There  may  no  man  have  perfect  blisses  two. 

This  is  to  say,  on  earth  and  eke  in  heaven. 

For  though  he  keep  him  from  the  sinne's  seven. 

And  eke  from  every  branch  of  thilke  tree,<8> 

Yet  is  there  so  perfect  felicity. 

And  so  great  *ease  and  lust,*  in  marriage,         *comfort  and  pleasure* 

That  ev'r  I  am  aghast,*  now  in  mine  age  *ashamed,  afraid 

That  I  shall  head  now  so  merry  a  life. 

So  delicate,  withoute  woe  or  strife. 

That  I  shall  have  mine  heav'n  on  earthe  here. 

For  since  that  very  heav'n  is  bought  so  dear. 

With  tribulation  and  great  penance. 

How  should  I  then,  living  in  such  pleasance 

As  alle  wedded  men  do  with  their  wives. 

Come  to  the  bliss  where  Christ  *etern  on  live  is?*    *lives  eternally* 

This  is  my  dread;*  and  ye,  my  brethren  tway,  *doubt 

Assoile*  me  this  question,  I  you  pray."  *resolve,  answer 


305 


Justinus,  which  that  hated  his  folly. 
Answer 'd  anon  right  in  his  japery;* 
And,  for  he  would  his  longe  tale  abridge. 
He  woulde  no  authority*  allege. 
But  saide;  "Sir,  so  there  be  none  obstacle 
Other  than  this,  God  of  his  high  miracle. 
And  of  his  mercy,  may  so  for  you  wirch,* 
That,  ere  ye  have  your  rights  of  holy  church. 
Ye  may  repent  of  wedded  manne's  life. 
In  which  ye  say  there  is  no  woe  nor  strife: 


*mockery,  jesting  way 


written  texts 


*work 


306 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  elles  God  forbid,  *but  iP  he  sent 
A  wedded  man  his  grace  him  to  repent 
Well  often,  rather  than  a  single  man. 
And  therefore.  Sir,  *the  beste  rede  I  can,* 


*unless 


*this  is  the  best  counsel 


Despair  you  not,  but  have  in  your  memory, 

Paraventure  she  maybe  your  purgatory; 

She  maybe  Godde's  means,  and  Godde's  whip; 

And  then  your  soul  shall  up  to  heaven  skip 

Swifter  than  doth  an  arrow  from  a  bow 

I  hope  to  God  hereafter  ye  shall  know 

That  there  is  none  so  great  felicity 

In  marriage,  nor  ever  more  shall  be. 

That  you  shall  let*  of  your  salvation; 

So  that  ye  use,  as  skill  is  and  reason. 

The  lustes*  of  your  wife  attemperly,** 

And  that  ye  please  her  not  too  amorously. 

And  that  ye  keep  you  eke  from  other  sin. 

My  tale  is  done,  for  my  wit  is  but  thin. 

Be  not  aghast*  hereof,  my  brother  dear. 

But  let  us  waden  out  of  this  mattere. 

The  Wife  of  Bath,  if  ye  have  understand. 

Of  marriage,  which  ye  have  now  in  hand. 

Declared  hath  full  well  in  little  space; 

Fare  ye  now  well,  God  have  you  in  his  grace, 


that  I  know* 


*hinder 


pleasures  **moderately 


*aharmed,  afraid 


And  with  this  word  this  Justin'  and  his  brother 
Have  ta'en  their  leave,  and  each  of  them  of  other. 
And  when  they  saw  that  it  must  needes  be. 
They  wroughte  so,  by  sleight  and  wise  treaty. 
That  she,  this  maiden,  which  that  *Maius  hight,* 
As  hastily  as  ever  that  she  might. 
Shall  wedded  be  unto  this  January. 
I  trow  it  were  too  longe  you  to  tarry. 
If  I  told  you  of  every  *script  and  band* 


*was  named  May* 


'written  bond* 


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307 


By  which  she  was  feoffed  in  his  hand; 

Or  for  to  reckon  of  her  rich  array 

But  fmally  y-comen  is  the  day 

That  to  the  churche  bothe  be  they  went. 

For  to  receive  the  holy  sacrament. 

Forth  came  the  priest,  with  stole  about  his  neck. 

And  bade  her  be  like  Sarah  and  Rebecc' 

In  wisdom  and  in  truth  of  marriage; 

And  said  his  orisons,  as  is  usage. 

And  crouched*  them,  and  prayed  God  should  them  bless,  *crossed 

And  made  all  sicker*  enough  with  holiness.  *certain 


Thus  be  they  wedded  with  solemnity; 

And  at  the  feaste  sat  both  he  and  she. 

With  other  worthy  folk,  upon  the  dais. 

All  full  of  joy  and  bliss  is  the  palace. 

And  full  of  instruments,  and  of  vitaille,  * 

The  moste  dainteous*  of  all  Itale. 

Before  them  stood  such  instruments  of  soun'. 

That  Orpheus,  nor  of  Thebes  Amphioun, 

Ne  made  never  such  a  melody. 

At  every  course  came  in  loud  minstrelsy. 

That  never  Joab  trumped  for  to  hear. 

Nor  he,Theodomas,  yet  half  so  clear 

At  Thebes,  when  the  city  was  in  doubt. 

Bacchus  the  wine  them  skinked*  all  about. 

And  Venus  laughed  upon  every  wight 

(For  January  was  become  her  knight. 

And  woulde  both  assaye  his  courage 

In  liberty,  and  eke  in  marriage). 

And  with  her  firebrand  in  her  hand  about 

Danced  before  the  bride  and  all  the  rout. 

And  certainly  I  dare  right  well  say  this, 

Hymeneus,  that  god  of  wedding  is. 


*victuals,  food 
*delicate 


*poured  <9> 


308 


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309 


Saw  never  his  life  so  merry  a  wedded  man. 

Hold  thou  thy  peace,  thou  poet  Marcian,<  10> 

That  writest  us  that  ilke*  wedding  merry  *same 

Of  her  Philology  and  him  Mercury, 

And  of  the  songes  that  the  Muses  sung; 

Too  small  is  both  thy  pen,  and  eke  thy  tongue 

For  to  describen  of  this  marriage. 

When  tender  youth  hath  wedded  stooping  age. 

There  is  such  mirth  that  it  may  not  be  writ; 

Assay  it  youreself,  then  may  ye  wit*  *know 

If  that  I  lie  or  no  in  this  mattere. 

Maius,  that  sat  with  so  benign  a  cheer,*  *countenance 

Her  to  behold  it  seemed  faerie; 

Queen  Esther  never  look'd  with  such  an  eye 

On  Assuere,  so  meek  a  look  had  she; 

I  may  you  not  devise  all  her  beauty; 

But  thus  much  of  her  beauty  tell  I  may. 

That  she  was  hike  the  bright  morrow  of  May 

Full  filled  of  all  beauty  and  pleasance. 

This  January  is  ravish'd  in  a  trance. 

At  every  time  he  looked  in  her  face; 

But  in  his  heart  he  gan  her  to  menace. 

That  he  that  night  in  armes  would  her  strain 

Harder  than  ever  Paris  did  Helene. 

But  natheless  yet  had  he  great  pity 

That  thilke  night  offende  her  must  he. 

And  thought,  "Alas,  O  tender  creature. 

Now  woulde  God  ye  mighte  well  endure 

All  my  courage,  it  is  so  sharp  and  keen; 

I  am  aghast*  ye  shall  it  not  sustene.  *afraid 

But  God  forbid  that  I  did  all  my  might. 

Now  woulde  God  that  it  were  waxen  night. 

And  that  the  night  would  lasten  evermo'. 


I  would  that  all  this  people  were  y-go."* 

And  fmally  he  did  all  his  labour. 

As  he  best  mighte,  saving  his  honour. 

To  haste  them  from  the  meat  in  subtle  wise. 

The  time  came  that  reason  was  to  rise; 

And  after  that  men  dance,  and  drinke  fast. 

And  spices  all  about  the  house  they  cast. 

And  full  of  joy  and  bliss  is  every  man. 

All  but  a  squire,  that  highte  Damian, 

Who  carv'd  before  the  knight  full  many  a  day; 

He  was  so  ravish'd  on  his  lady  May, 

That  for  the  very  pain  he  was  nigh  wood;* 

Almost  he  swelt*  and  swooned  where  he  stood. 

So  sore  had  Venus  hurt  him  with  her  brand. 

As  that  she  bare  it  dancing  in  her  hand. 

And  to  his  bed  he  went  him  hastily; 

No  more  of  him  as  at  this  time  speak  I; 

But  there  I  let  him  weep  enough  and  plain,* 

Till  freshe  May  will  rue  upon  his  pain. 

O  perilous  fire,  that  in  the  bedstrawbreedeth! 

O  foe  familiar,*  that  his  service  bedeth!** 

O  servant  traitor,  O  false  homely  hewe,* 

Like  to  the  adder  in  bosom  shy  untrue, 

God  shield  us  alle  from  your  acquaintance! 

O  January,  drunken  in  pleasance 

Of  marriage,  see  how  thy  Damian, 

Thine  owen  squier  and  thy  boren*  man, 

Intendeth  for  to  do  thee  villainy:* 

God  grante  thee  thine  *homehy  foe*  t'  espy. 

For  in  this  world  is  no  worse  pestilence 

Than  homely  foe,  all  day  in  thy  presence. 

Performed  hath  the  sun  his  arc  diurn,* 


gone  away 


*mad 
*fainted 


*bewail 


domestic  <  1 1  >  **offers 
*servant  <12> 


*born<13> 
dishonour,  outrage 
*enemy  in  the  household* 


*daily 


310 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*pleasant  company* 


eager 


potion 


No  longer  may  the  body  of  him  sojourn 

On  the  horizon,  in  that  latitude: 

Night  with  his  mantle,  that  is  dark  and  rude, 

Gan  overspread  the  hemisphere  about: 

For  which  departed  is  this  *lusty  rout* 

From  January,  with  thank  on  every  side. 

Home  to  their  houses  lustily  they  ride. 

Where  as  they  do  their  thinges  as  them  lest. 

And  when  they  see  their  time  they  go  to  rest. 

Soon  after  that  this  hasty*  January 

Will  go  to  bed,  he  will  no  longer  tarry. 

He  dranke  hippocras,  clarre,  and  vernage  <14> 

Of  spices  hot,  to  increase  his  courage; 

And  many  a  lectuary*  had  he  full  fme. 

Such  as  the  cursed  monk  Dan  Constantine<15> 

Hath  written  in  his  book  *de  Coitu;*  *of  sexual  intercourse* 

To  eat  them  all  he  would  nothing  eschew: 

And  to  his  privy  friendes  thus  said  he: 

"For  Godde's  love,  as  soon  as  it  may  be. 

Let  *voiden  all*  this  house  in  courteous  wise."         *everyone  leave* 

And  they  have  done  right  as  he  will  devise. 

Men  drinken,  and  the  travers*  draw  anon;  *curtains 

The  bride  is  brought  to  bed  as  still  as  stone; 

And  when  the  bed  was  with  the  priest  y-bless'd. 

Out  of  the  chamber  every  wight  him  dress'd. 

And  January  hath  fast  in  arms  y-take 

His  freshe  May,  his  paradise,  his  make.*  *mate 

He  lulled  her,  he  kissed  her  full  oft; 

With  thicke  bristles  of  his  beard  unsoft. 

Like  to  the  skin  of  houndfish,*  sharp  as  brere**        *dogfish  **briar 

(For  he  was  shav'n  all  new  in  his  mannere). 

He  rubbed  her  upon  her  tender  face. 

And  saide  thus;  "Alas!  I  must  trespace 

To  you,  my  spouse,  and  you  greatly  offend. 


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Ere  time  come  that  I  will  down  descend. 
But  natheless  consider  this,"  quoth  he, 
"There  is  no  workman,  whatsoe'er  he  be. 
That  may  both  worke  well  and  hastily: 
This  will  be  done  at  leisure  perfectly. 
It  is  *no  force*  how  longe  that  we  play; 
In  true  wedlock  coupled  be  we  tway; 
And  blessed  be  the  yoke  that  we  be  in. 
For  in  our  actes  may  there  be  no  sin. 
A  man  may  do  no  sinne  with  his  wife. 
Nor  hurt  himselfe  with  his  owen  knife; 
For  we  have  leave  to  play  us  by  the  law." 


311 


"no  matter" 


Thus  labour 'd  he,  till  that  the  day  gan  daw. 

And  then  he  took  a  sop  in  fme  clarre. 

And  upright  in  his  bedde  then  sat  he. 

And  after  that  he  sang  full  loud  and  clear. 

And  kiss'd  his  wife,  and  made  wanton  cheer. 

He  was  all  coltish,  full  of  ragerie  * 

And  full  of  jargon  as  a  flecked  pie.<16> 

The  slacke  skin  about  his  necke  shaked. 

While  that  he  sang,  so  chanted  he  and  craked.* 

But  God  wot  what  that  May  thought  in  her  heart. 

When  she  him  saw  up  sitting  in  his  shirt 

In  his  night-cap,  and  with  his  necke  lean: 

She  praised  not  his  playing  worth  a  bean. 

Then  said  he  thus;  "My  reste  will  I  take 

Now  day  is  come,  I  may  no  longer  wake; 

And  down  he  laid  his  head  and  slept  till  prime. 

And  afterward,  when  that  he  saw  his  time. 

Up  rose  January,  but  freshe  May 

Helde  her  chamber  till  the  fourthe  day. 

As  usage  is  of  wives  for  the  best. 

For  every  labour  some  time  must  have  rest. 


wantonness 


*quavered 


312 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Or  elles  longe  may  he  not  endure; 

This  is  to  say,  no  life  of  creature, 

Be  it  offish,  or  bird,  or  beast,  or  man. 

Now  will  I  speak  of  woeful  Damian, 

That  languisheth  for  love,  as  ye  shall  hear; 

Therefore  I  speak  to  him  in  this  manneare. 

I  say  "O  silly  Damian,  alas! 

Answer  to  this  demand,  as  in  this  case. 

How  shalt  thou  to  thy  lady,  freshe  May, 

Telle  thy  woe?  She  will  alway  say  nay; 

Eke  if  thou  speak,  she  will  thy  woe  bewray;  * 

God  be  thine  help,  I  can  no  better  say 

This  sicke  Damian  in  Venus'  fire 

So  burned  that  he  died  for  desire; 

For  which  he  put  his  life  *in  aventure,* 

No  longer  might  he  in  this  wise  endure; 

But  privily  a  penner*  gan  he  borrow. 

And  in  a  letter  wrote  he  all  his  sorrow. 

In  manner  of  a  complaint  or  a  lay. 

Unto  his  faire  freshe  lady  May 

And  in  a  purse  of  silk,  hung  on  his  shirt. 

He  hath  it  put,  and  laid  it  at  his  heart. 

The  moone,  that  at  noon  was  thilke*  day 

That  January  had  wedded  freshe  May, 

In  ten  of  Taure,  was  into  Cancer  glided; <  17> 

So  long  had  Maius  in  her  chamber  abided. 

As  custom  is  unto  these  nobles  all. 

A  bride  shall  not  eaten  in  the  ball 

Till  dayes  four,  or  three  days  at  the  least, 

Y-passed  be;  then  let  her  go  to  feast. 

The  fourthe  day  complete  from  noon  to  noon. 

When  that  the  highe  masse  was  y-done. 


*betray 

*at  risk* 
*writing-case 


*that 


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In  halle  sat  this  January,  and  May, 
As  fresh  as  is  the  brighte  summer's  day. 
And  so  befell,  how  that  this  goode  man 
Remember'd  him  upon  this  Damian. 
And  saide;  "Saint  Mary,  how  may  this  be. 
That  Damian  attendeth  not  to  me? 
Is  he  aye  sick?  or  how  may  this  betide?" 
His  squiers,  which  that  stoode  there  beside. 
Excused  him,  because  of  his  sickness. 
Which  letted*  him  to  do  his  business: 
None  other  cause  mighte  make  him  tarry. 
"That  me  forthinketh,"*  quoth  this  January 
"He  is  a  gentle  squier,  by  my  truth; 
If  that  he  died,  it  were  great  harm  and  ruth. 
He  is  as  wise,  as  discreet,  and  secre',* 
As  any  man  I  know  of  his  degree. 
And  thereto  manly  and  eke  serviceble. 
And  for  to  be  a  thrifty  man  right  able. 
But  after  meat,  as  soon  as  ever  I  may 
I  will  myself  visit  him,  and  eke  May, 
To  do  him  all  the  comfort  that  I  can." 
And  for  that  word  him  blessed  every  man. 
That  of  his  bounty  and  his  gentleness 
He  woulde  so  comforten  in  sickness 
His  squier,  for  it  was  a  gentle  deed. 


313 


*hindered 

*grieves,  causes 
uneasiness 

*secret,  trusty 


"Dame,"  quoth  this  January,  "take  good  heed. 
At  after  meat,  ye  with  your  women  all 
(When  that  ye  be  in  chamb'r  out  of  this  hall). 
That  all  ye  go  to  see  this  Damian: 
Do  him  disport,  he  is  a  gentle  man; 
And  telle  him  that  I  will  him  visite, 
*Have  I  nothing  but  rested  me  a  lite:* 
And  speed  you  faste,  for  I  will  abide 


when  only  I  have  rested 
me  a  little* 


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315 


Till  that  ye  sleepe  faste  by  my  side." 

And  with  that  word  he  gan  unto  him  call 

A  squier,  that  was  marshal  of  his  hall, 

And  told  him  certain  thinges  that  he  wold. 

This  freshe  May  hath  straight  her  way  y-hold, 

With  all  her  women,  unto  Damian. 

Down  by  his  beddes  side  sat  she  than,*  *then 

Comforting  him  as  goodly  as  she  may. 

This  Damian,  when  that  his  time  he  say,*  *saw 

In  secret  wise  his  purse,  and  eke  his  bill. 

In  which  that  he  y-written  had  his  will. 

Hath  put  into  her  hand  withoute  more. 

Save  that  he  sighed  wondrous  deep  and  sore. 

And  softely  to  her  right  thus  said  he: 

"Mercy,  and  that  ye  not  discover  me: 

For  I  am  dead  if  that  this  thing  be  kid."*  *discovered  <  1 8  > 

The  purse  hath  she  in  her  bosom  hid. 

And  went  her  way;  ye  get  no  more  of  me; 

But  unto  January  come  is  she. 

That  on  his  beddes  side  sat  full  soft. 

He  took  her,  and  he  kissed  her  full  oft. 

And  laid  him  down  to  sleep,  and  that  anon. 

She  feigned  her  as  that  she  muste  gon 

There  as  ye  know  that  every  wight  must  need; 

And  when  she  of  this  bill  had  taken  heed. 

She  rent  it  all  to  cloutes*  at  the  last,  *fragments 

And  in  the  privy  softely  it  cast. 

Who  studieth*  now  but  faire  freshe  May?  *is  thoughtful 

Ad  own  by  olde  January  she  lay. 

That  slepte,  till  the  cough  had  him  awaked: 

Anon  he  pray'd  her  strippe  her  all  naked. 

He  would  of  her,  he  said,  have  some  pleasance; 

And  said  her  clothes  did  him  incumbrance. 

And  she  obey'd  him,  be  her  *lefe  or  loth.*        *willing  or  unwilling* 


But,  lest  that  precious*  folk  be  with  me  wroth. 
How  that  he  wrought  I  dare  not  to  you  tell. 
Or  whether  she  thought  it  paradise  or  hell; 
But  there  I  let  them  worken  in  their  wise 
Till  evensong  ring,  and  they  must  arise. 


*over-nice  <19> 


'  chance 


*let  him  judge* 


Were  it  by  destiny,  or  aventure,* 

Were  it  by  influence,  or  by  nature. 

Or  constellation,  that  in  such  estate 

The  heaven  stood  at  that  time  fortunate 

As  for  to  put  a  bill  of  Venus' works 

(For  alle  thing  hath  time,  as  say  these  clerks). 

To  any  woman  for  to  get  her  love, 

I  cannot  say;  but  greate  God  above. 

That  knoweth  that  none  act  is  causeless, 

*He  deem*  of  all,  for  I  will  hold  my  peace. 

But  sooth  is  this,  how  that  this  freshe  May 

Hath  taken  such  impression  that  day 

Of  pity  on  this  sicke  Damian, 

That  from  her  hearte  she  not  drive  can 

The  remembrance  for  *to  do  him  ease.* 

"Certain,"  thought  she,  "whom  that  this  thing  displease      his  desire^ 

I  recke  not,  for  here  I  him  assure. 

To  love  him  best  of  any  creature. 

Though  he  no  more  haddee  than  his  shirt." 

Lo,  pity  runneth  soon  in  gentle  heart. 

Here  may  ye  see,  how  excellent  franchise* 

In  women  is  when  they  them  *narrow  advise.* 

Some  tyrant  is,  —  as  there  be  many  a  one,  — 

That  hath  a  heart  as  hard  as  any  stone. 

Which  would  have  let  him  sterven*  in  the  place 

Well  rather  than  have  granted  him  her  grace; 

And  then  rejoicen  in  her  cruel  pride. 

And  reckon  not  to  be  a  homicide. 


*to  satisfy 


generosity 
closely  consider* 


*die 


316 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


This  gentle  May,  full  filled  of  pity, 

Right  of  her  hand  a  letter  maked  she. 

In  which  she  granted  him  her  very  grace; 

There  lacked  nought,  but  only  day  and  place. 

Where  that  she  might  unto  his  lust  suffice: 

For  it  shall  be  right  as  he  will  devise. 

And  when  she  saw  her  time  upon  a  day 

To  visit  this  Damian  went  this  May, 

And  subtilly  this  letter  down  she  thrust 

Under  his  pillow,  read  it  if  him  lust.*  *pleased 

She  took  him  by  the  hand,  and  hard  him  twist 

So  secretly,  that  no  wight  of  it  wist. 

And  bade  him  be  all  whole;  and  forth  she  went 

To  January,  when  he  for  her  sent. 

Up  rose  Damian  the  nexte  morrow. 

All  passed  was  his  sickness  and  his  sorrow. 

He  combed  him,  he  proined  <20>  him  and  picked. 

He  did  all  that  unto  his  lady  liked; 

And  eke  to  January  he  went  as  low 

As  ever  did  a  dogge  for  the  bow.<21> 

He  is  so  pleasant  unto  every  man 

(For  craft  is  all,  whoso  that  do  it  can). 

Every  wight  is  fain  to  speak  him  good; 

And  fully  in  his  lady's  grace  he  stood. 

Thus  leave  I  Damian  about  his  need. 

And  in  my  tale  forth  I  will  proceed. 

Some  clerke*  holde  that  felicity  *writers,  scholars 

Stands  in  delight;  and  therefore  certain  he. 

This  noble  January,  with  all  his  might 

In  honest  wise  as  longeth*  to  a  knight,  *belongeth 

Shope*  him  to  live  full  deliciously:  *prepared,  arranged 

His  housing,  his  array,  as  honestly*  *honourably,  suitably 

To  his  degree  was  maked  as  a  king's. 


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Amonges  other  of  his  honest  things 

He  had  a  garden  walled  all  with  stone; 

So  fair  a  garden  wot  I  nowhere  none. 

For  out  of  doubt  I  verily  suppose 

That  he  that  wrote  the  Romance  of  the  Rose  <22> 

Could  not  of  it  the  beauty  well  devise;*  *describe 

Nor  Priapus  <23>  mighte  not  well  suffice. 

Though  he  be  god  of  gardens,  for  to  tell 

The  beauty  of  the  garden,  and  the  well*  *fountain 

That  stood  under  a  laurel  always  green. 

Full  often  time  he,  Pluto,  and  his  queen 

Proserpina,  and  all  their  faerie. 

Disported  them  and  made  melody 

About  that  well,  and  danced,  as  men  told. 

This  noble  knight,  this  January  old 

Such  dainty*  had  in  it  to  walk  and  play,  *pleasure 

That  he  would  suffer  no  wight  to  bear  the  key. 

Save  he  himself,  for  of  the  small  wicket 

He  bare  always  of  silver  a  cliket,*  *key 

With  which,  when  that  him  list,  he  it  unshet.*  *opened 

And  when  that  he  would  pay  his  wife's  debt. 

In  summer  season,  thither  would  he  go. 

And  May  his  wife,  and  no  wight  but  they  two; 

And  thinges  which  that  were  not  done  in  bed. 

He  in  the  garden  them  perform'd  and  sped. 

And  in  this  wise  many  a  merry  day 

Lived  this  January  and  fresh  May, 

But  worldly  joy  may  not  always  endure 

To  January,  nor  to  no  creatucere. 

O  sudden  hap!  O  thou  fortune  unstable! 

Like  to  the  scorpion  so  deceivable,*  *deceitful 

That  fhatt'rest  with  thy  head  when  thou  wilt  sting; 

Thy  tail  is  death,  through  thine  envenoming. 


317 


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319 


O  brittle  joy!  O  sweete  poison  quaint!*  *strange 

O  monster,  that  so  subtilly  canst  paint 

Thy  giftes,  under  hue  of  steadfastness, 

That  thou  deceivest  bothe  *more  and  less!*  *great  and  small* 

Why  hast  thou  January  thus  deceiv'd. 

That  haddest  him  for  thy  full  friend  receiv'd? 

And  now  thou  hast  bereft  him  both  his  eyen. 

For  sorrow  of  which  desireth  he  to  dien. 

Alas!  this  noble  January  free. 

Amid  his  lust*  and  his  prosperity  *pleasure 

Is  waxen  blind,  and  that  all  suddenly 

He  weeped  and  he  wailed  piteously; 

And  therewithal  the  fire  of  jealousy 

(Lest  that  his  wife  should  fall  in  some  folly) 

So  burnt  his  hearte,  that  he  woulde  fain. 

That  some  man  bothe  him  and  her  had  slain; 

For  neither  after  his  death,  nor  in  his  life, 

Ne  would  he  that  she  were  no  love  nor  wife. 

But  ever  live  as  widow  in  clothes  black. 

Sole  as  the  turtle  that  hath  lost  her  make.*  *mate 

But  at  the  last,  after  a  month  or  tway 

His  sorrow  gan  assuage,  soothe  to  say 

For,  when  he  wist  it  might  none  other  be. 

He  patiently  took  his  adversity: 

Save  out  of  doubte  he  may  not  foregon 

That  he  was  jealous  evermore-in-one:*  *continually 

Which  jealousy  was  so  outrageous. 

That  neither  in  hall,  nor  in  none  other  house. 

Nor  in  none  other  place  never  the  mo' 

He  woulde  suffer  her  to  ride  or  go, 

*But  iP  that  he  had  hand  on  her  alway  *unless 

For  which  full  often  wepte  freshe  May, 

That  loved  Damian  so  burningly 

That  she  must  either  dien  suddenly, 


Or  elles  she  must  have  him  as  her  lest:* 
She  waited*  when  her  hearte  woulde  brest.** 
Upon  that  other  side  Damian 
Becomen  is  the  sorrowfullest  man 
That  ever  was;  for  neither  night  nor  day 
He  mighte  speak  a  word  to  freshe  May, 
As  to  his  purpose,  of  no  such  mattere, 
*But  if  that  January  must  it  hear. 
That  had  a  hand  upon  her  evermo'. 
But  natheless,  by  writing  to  and  fro. 
And  privy  signes,  wist  he  what  she  meant. 
And  she  knew  eke  the  fme*  of  his  intent. 

O  January,  what  might  it  thee  avail. 

Though  thou  might  see  as  far  as  shippes  sail? 

For  as  good  is  it  blind  deceiv'd  to  be. 

As  be  deceived  when  a  man  may  see. 

Lo,  Argus,  which  that  had  a  hundred  eyen,  <24 

For  all  that  ever  he  could  pore  or  pryen. 

Yet  was  he  blent;*  and,  God  wot,  so  be  mo'. 

That  *weene  wisly*  that  it  be  not  so: 

Pass  over  is  an  ease,  I  say  no  more. 

This  freshe  May,  of  which  I  spake  yore,* 

In  warm  wax  hath  *imprinted  the  cliket* 

That  January  bare  of  the  small  wicket 

By  which  into  his  garden  oft  he  went; 

And  Damian,  that  knew  all  her  intent. 

The  cliket  counterfeited  privily; 

There  is  no  more  to  say,  but  hastily 

Some  wonder  by  this  cliket  shall  betide. 

Which  ye  shall  hearen,  if  ye  will  abide. 

O  noble  Ovid,  sooth  say'st  thou,  God  wot. 
What  sleight  is  it,  if  love  be  long  and  hot. 


*pleased 
*expected  **burst 


*unless* 


*end,  aim 


*deceived 
think  confidently* 

*previously 

*taken  an  impression 

of  the  key* 


320 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  he'll  not  find  it  out  in  some  mannere? 

By  Pyramus  and  Thisbe  may  men  lear;*  *learn 

Though  they  were  kept  full  long  and  strait  o'er  all, 

They  be  accorded,*  rowning**  through  a  wall,         *agreed    **whispering 

Where  no  wight  could  have  found  out  such  a  sleight. 

But  now  to  purpose;  ere  that  dayes  eight 

Were  passed  of  the  month  of  July,  fill*  *it  befell 

That  January  caught  so  great  a  will. 

Through  egging*  of  his  wife,  him  for  to  play  *inciting 

In  his  garden,  and  no  wight  but  they  tway. 

That  in  a  morning  to  this  May  said  he:  <2S> 

"Rise  up,  my  wife,  my  love,  my  lady  free; 

The  turtle's  voice  is  heard,  mine  owen  sweet; 

The  winter  is  gone,  with  all  his  raines  weet.*  *wet 

Come  forth  now  with  thine  *eyen  columbine*         *eyes  like  the  doves* 

Well  fairer  be  thy  breasts  than  any  wine. 

The  garden  is  enclosed  all  about; 

Come  forth,  my  white  spouse;  for,  out  of  doubt. 

Thou  hast  me  wounded  in  mine  heart,  O  wife: 

No  spot  in  thee  was  e'er  in  all  thy  life. 

Come  forth,  and  let  us  taken  our  disport; 

I  choose  thee  for  my  wife  and  my  comfort." 

Such  olde  lewed*  wordes  used  he.  *foolish,  ignorant 

On  Damian  a  signe  made  she. 

That  he  should  go  before  with  his  cliket. 

This  Damian  then  hath  opened  the  wicket. 

And  in  he  start,  and  that  in  such  mannere 

That  no  wight  might  him  either  see  or  hear; 

And  still  he  sat  under  a  bush.  Anon 

This  January,  as  blind  as  is  a  stone. 

With  Maius  in  his  hand,  and  no  wight  mo'. 

Into  this  freshe  garden  is  y-go. 

And  clapped  to  the  wicket  suddenly. 

"Now,  wife,"  quoth  he,  "here  is  but  thou  and  I; 


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Thou  art  the  creature  that  I  beste  love: 

For,  by  that  Lord  that  sits  in  heav'n  above. 

Lever*  I  had  to  dien  on  a  knife,  *rather 

Than  thee  offende,  deare  true  wife. 

For  Godde's  sake,  think  how  I  thee  chees,*  *chose 

Not  for  no  covetise*  doubteless,  *  covetousness 

But  only  for  the  love  I  had  to  thee. 

And  though  that  I  be  old,  and  may  not  see. 

Be  to  me  true,  and  I  will  tell  you  why. 

Certes  three  thinges  shall  ye  win  thereby: 

First,  love  of  Christ,  and  to  yourself  honour. 

And  all  mine  heritage,  town  and  tow'r. 

I  give  it  you,  make  charters  as  you  lest; 

This  shall  be  done  to-morrow  ere  sun  rest. 

So  wisly*  God  my  soule  bring  to  bliss!  *surely 

I  pray  you,  on  this  covenant  me  kiss. 

And  though  that  I  be  jealous,  wite*  me  not;  *blame 

Ye  be  so  deep  imprinted  in  my  thought. 

That  when  that  I  consider  your  beauty. 

And  therewithal  *th'unlikely  eld*  of  me,  *dissimilar  age* 

I  may  not,  certes,  though  I  shoulde  die. 

Forbear  to  be  out  of  your  company. 

For  very  love;  this  is  withoute  doubt: 

Now  kiss  me,  wife,  and  let  us  roam  about." 


321 


This  freshe  May,  when  she  these  wordes  heard, 
Benignely  to  January  answer'd; 
But  first  and  forward  she  began  to  weep: 
"I  have,"  quoth  she,  "a  soule  for  to  keep 
As  well  as  ye,  and  also  mine  honour. 
And  of  my  wifehood  thilke*  tender  flow'r 
Which  that  I  have  assured  in  your  bond. 
When  that  the  priest  to  you  my  body  bond: 
Wherefore  I  will  answer  in  this  mannere. 


*that  same 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


With  leave  of  you  mine  owen  lord  so  dear. 
I  pray  to  God,  that  never  dawn  the  day 
That  I  *no  sterve,*  as  foul  as  woman  may, 
If  e'er  I  do  unto  my  kin  that  shame. 
Or  elles  I  impaire  so  my  name. 
That  I  bee  false;  and  if  I  do  that  lack. 
Do  strippe  me,  and  put  me  in  a  sack. 
And  in  the  nexte  river  do  me  drench:* 
I  am  a  gentle  woman,  and  no  wench. 
Why  speak  ye  thus?  but  men  be  e'er  untrue. 
And  women  have  reproof  of  you  aye  new. 
Ye  know  none  other  dalliance,  I  believe. 
But  speak  to  us  of  untrust  and  repreve."* 

And  with  that  word  she  saw  where  Damian 
Sat  in  the  bush,  and  coughe  she  began; 
And  with  her  fmger  signe  made  she. 
That  Damian  should  climb  upon  a  tree 
That  charged  was  with  fruit;  and  up  he  went: 
For  verily  he  knew  all  her  intent. 
And  every  signe  that  she  coulde  make. 
Better  than  January  her  own  make.* 
For  in  a  letter  she  had  told  him  all 
Of  this  matter,  how  that  he  worke  shall. 
And  thus  I  leave  him  sitting  in  the  perry,* 
And  January  and  May  roaming  full  merry. 

Bright  was  the  day,  and  blue  the  firmament; 

Phoebus  of  gold  his  streames  down  had  sent 

To  gladden  every  flow'r  with  his  warmness; 

He  was  that  time  in  Geminis,  I  guess. 

But  little  from  his  declination 

Of  Cancer,  Jove's  exaltation. 

And  so  befell,  in  that  bright  morning-tide. 


*do  not  die* 


*drown 


*reproof 


"mate 


pear-tree 


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That  in  the  garden,  on  the  farther  side, 

Pluto,  that  is  the  king  of  Faerie, 

And  many  a  lady  in  his  company 

Following  his  wife,  the  queen  Proserpina,  — 

Which  that  he  ravished  out  of  Ethna,<26> 

While  that  she  gather 'd  flowers  in  the  mead 

(In  Claudian  ye  may  the  story  read. 

How  in  his  grisly  chariot  he  her  fet*),  —  *fetched 

This  king  of  Faerie  ad  own  him  set 

Upon  a  bank  of  turfes  fresh  and  green. 

And  right  anon  thus  said  he  to  his  queen. 

"My  wife,"  quoth  he,  "there  may  no  wight  say  nay,  — 

Experience  so  proves  it  every  day,  — 

The  treason  which  that  woman  doth  to  man. 

Ten  hundred  thousand  stories  tell  I  can 

Notable  of  your  untruth  and  brittleness  *  *inconstancy 

O  Solomon,  richest  of  all  ri chess. 

Full  fill'd  of  sapience  and  worldly  glory. 

Full  worthy  be  thy  wordes  of  memory 

To  every  wight  that  wit  and  reason  can.  *  *knows 

Thus  praised  he  yet  the  bounte*  of  man:  *goodness 

Among  a  thousand  men  yet  found  I  one. 

But  of  all  women  found  I  never  none.'  <27> 

Thus  said  this  king,  that  knew  your  wickedness; 

And  Jesus,  Filius  Sirach,  <28>  as  I  guess. 

He  spake  of  you  but  seldom  reverence. 

A  wilde  fire  and  corrupt  pestilence 

So  fall  upon  your  bodies  yet  to-night! 

Ne  see  ye  not  this  honourable  knight? 

Because,  alas!  that  he  is  blind  and  old. 

His  owen  man  shall  make  him  cuckold. 

Lo,  where  he  sits,  the  lechour,  in  the  tree. 

Now  will  I  granten,  of  my  majesty. 

Unto  this  olde  blinde  worthy  knight. 


323 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  he  shall  have  again  his  eyen  sight, 
When  that  his  wife  will  do  him  villainy; 
Then  shall  be  knowen  all  her  harlotry, 
Both  in  reproof  of  her  and  other  mo'." 
"Yea,  Sir,"  quoth  Proserpine,"  and  will  ye  so? 
Now  by  my  mother  Ceres'  soul  I  swear 
That  I  shall  give  her  suffisant  answer. 
And  alle  women  after,  for  her  sake; 
That  though  they  be  in  any  guilt  y-take. 
With  face  bold  they  shall  themselves  excuse. 
And  bear  them  down  that  woulde  them  accuse. 
For  lack  of  answer,  none  of  them  shall  dien. 


All*  had  ye  seen  a  thing  with  both  your  eyen. 
Yet  shall  *we  visage  it*  so  hardily. 
And  weep,  and  swear,  and  chide  subtilly. 
That  ye  shall  be  as  lewed*  as  be  geese. 
What  recketh  me  of  your  authorities? 
I  wot  well  that  this  Jew,  this  Solomon, 
Found  of  us  women  fooles  many  one: 
But  though  that  he  founde  no  good  woman. 
Yet  there  hath  found  many  another  man 
Women  full  good,  and  true,  and  virtuous; 
Witness  on  them  that  dwelt  in  Christes  house; 
With  martyrdom  they  proved  their  Constance. 
The  Roman  gestes  <29>  make  remembrance 
Of  many  a  very  true  wife  also. 
But,  Sire,  be  not  wroth,  albeit  so. 
Though  that  he  said  he  found  no  good  woman, 
I  pray  you  take  the  sentence*  of  the  man: 
He  meant  thus,  that  in  *sovereign  bounte* 
Is  none  but  God,  no,  neither  *he  nor  she.* 
Hey,  for  the  very  God  that  is  but  one. 
Why  make  ye  so  much  of  Solomon? 


*although 


''confront  it* 


gnorant,  confounded 


*opinion,  real  meaning 
*perfect  goodness 
*man  nor  woman* 


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What  though  he  made  a  temple,  Godde's  house? 

What  though  he  were  rich  and  glorious? 

So  made  he  eke  a  temple  of  false  goddes; 

How  might  he  do  a  thing  that  more  forbode*  is?  *forbidden 

Pardie,  as  fair  as  ye  his  name  emplaster,*   *plaster  over,  "whitewash" 

He  was  a  lechour,  and  an  idolaster,* 

And  in  his  eld  he  very*  God  forsook. 

And  if  that  God  had  not  (as  saith  the  book) 

Spared  him  for  his  father's  sake,  he  should 

Have  lost  his  regne*  rather**  than  he  would. 

I  *sette  not  oP  all  the  villainy 

That  he  of  women  wrote,  a  butterfly. 

I  am  a  woman,  needes  must  I  speak. 

Or  elles  swell  until  mine  hearte  break. 

For  since  he  said  that  we  be  jangleresses,* 

As  ever  may  I  brooke*  whole  my  tresses, 

I  shall  not  spare  for  no  courtesy 

To  speak  him  harm,  that  said  us  villainy." 

"Dame,"  quoth  this  Pluto,  "be  no  longer  wroth; 

I  give  it  up:  but,  since  I  swore  mine  oath 

That  I  would  grant  to  him  his  sight  again. 

My  word  shall  stand,  that  warn  I  you  certain: 


*idohater 
*the  true 


*kingdom  **sooner 
*value  not* 


*chatterers 
*preserve 


I  am  a  king;  it  sits*  me  not  to  lie." 
"And  I,"  quoth  she,  "am  queen  of  Faerie. 
Her  answer  she  shall  have,  I  undertake. 
Let  us  no  more  wordes  of  it  make. 
Forsooth,  I  will  no  longer  you  contrary." 


*becomes,  befits 


Now  let  us  turn  again  to  January, 
That  in  the  garden  with  his  faire  May 
Singeth  well  merrier  than  the  popinjay:* 
"You  love  I  best,  and  shall,  and  other  none." 
So  long  about  the  alleys  is  he  gone. 
Till  he  was  come  to  *that  ilke  perry,* 


parrot 


*the  same  pear-tree* 


326 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Where  as  this  Damian  satte  full  merry 

On  high,  among  the  freshe  leaves  green. 

This  freshe  May,  that  is  so  bright  and  sheen, 

Gan  for  to  sigh,  and  said,  "Alas  my  side! 

Now,  Sir,"  quoth  she,  "for  aught  that  may  betide, 

I  must  have  of  the  peares  that  I  see. 

Or  I  must  die,  so  sore  longeth  me 

To  eaten  of  the  smalle  peares  green; 

Help,  for  her  love  that  is  of  heaven  queen! 

I  tell  you  well,  a  woman  in  my  plight  <30> 

May  have  to  fruit  so  great  an  appetite. 

That  she  may  dien,  but*  she  of  it  have.  "  *unless 

"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "that  I  had  here  a  knave*  *servant 

That  coulde  climb;  alas!  alas!"  quoth  he, 

"For  I  am  blind."  "Yea,  Sir,  *no  force,"*  quoth  she;         *no  matter* 

"But  would  ye  vouchesafe,  for  Godde's  sake. 

The  perry  in  your  armes  for  to  take 

(For  well  I  wot  that  ye  mistruste  me). 

Then  would  I  climbe  well  enough,"  quoth  she, 

"So  I  my  foot  might  set  upon  your  back." 

"Certes,"  said  he,  "therein  shall  be  no  lack. 

Might  I  you  helpe  with  mine  hearte's  blood." 

He  stooped  down,  and  on  his  back  she  stood. 

And  caught  her  by  a  twist,*  and  up  she  go'th.  *twig,  bough 

(Ladies,  I  pray  you  that  ye  be  not  wroth, 

I  cannot  glose,*  I  am  a  rude  man):  *mince  matters 

And  suddenly  anon  this  Damian 

Gan  pullen  up  the  smock,  and  in  he  throng.*  *rushed  <31> 

And  when  that  Pluto  saw  this  greate  wrong. 

To  January  he  gave  again  his  sight. 

And  made  him  see  as  well  as  ever  he  might. 

And  when  he  thus  had  caught  his  sight  again. 

Was  never  man  of  anything  so  fain: 

But  on  his  wife  his  thought  was  evermo'. 


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Up  to  the  tree  he  cast  his  eyen  two. 

And  saw  how  Damian  his  wife  had  dress'd. 

In  such  mannere,  it  may  not  be  express'd, 

*But  iP  I  woulde  speak  uncourteously  *unless* 

And  up  he  gave  a  roaring  and  a  cry. 

As  doth  the  mother  when  the  child  shall  die; 

"Out!  help!  alas!  harow!"  he  gan  to  cry; 

"O  stronge,  lady,  stowre!  <32>  what  doest  thou?" 

And  she  answered:  "Sir,  what  aileth  you? 

Have  patience  and  reason  in  your  mind, 

I  have  you  help'd  on  both  your  eyen  blind. 

On  peril  of  my  soul,  I  shall  not  lien. 

As  me  was  taught  to  helpe  with  your  eyen. 

Was  nothing  better  for  to  make  you  see. 

Than  struggle  with  a  man  upon  a  tree: 

God  wot,  I  did  it  in  full  good  intent." 

"Struggle!"  quoth  he,  "yea,  algate*  in  it  went. 

God  give  you  both  one  shame's  death  to  dien! 

He  swived*  thee;  I  saw  it  with  mine  eyen; 

And  elles  be  I  hanged  by  the  halse."* 

"Then  is,"  quoth  she,  "my  medicine  all  false; 

For  certainly,  if  that  ye  mighte  see. 

Ye  would  not  say  these  wordes  unto  me. 

Ye  have  some  glimpsing,*  and  no  perfect  sight.' 

"I  see,"  quoth  he,  "as  well  as  ever  I  might, 

(Thanked  be  God!)  with  both  mine  eyen  two. 

And  by  my  faith  me  thought  he  did  thee  so." 

"Ye  maze,*  ye  maze,  goode  Sir,"  quoth  she; 

"This  thank  have  I  for  I  have  made  you  see: 

Alas!"  quoth  she,  "that  e'er  I  was  so  kind." 

"Now,  Dame,"  quoth  he,  "let  all  pass  out  of  mind; 

Come  down,  my  lefe,*  and  if  I  have  missaid,  *love 

God  help  me  so,  as  I  am  *evil  apaid.*  *dissatisfied* 


327 


*whatever  way 

enjoyed  carnally 
*neck 


glimmering 


*rave,  are  confused 


328 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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329 


But,  by  my  father's  soul,  I  ween'd  have  seen 

How  that  this  Damian  had  by  thee  lain. 

And  that  thy  smock  had  lain  upon  his  breast." 

"Yea,  Sir,"  quoth  she,  "ye  may  Veen  as  ye  lest:*  *think  as  you 

But,  Sir,  a  man  that  wakes  out  of  his  sleep,  please* 

He  may  not  suddenly  well  take  keep*  *notice 

Upon  a  thing,  nor  see  it  perfectly. 

Till  that  he  be  adawed*  verily  *awakened 

Right  so  a  man,  that  long  hath  blind  y-be. 

He  may  not  suddenly  so  well  y-see. 

First  when  his  sight  is  newe  come  again. 

As  he  that  hath  a  day  or  two  y-seen. 

Till  that  your  sight  establish'd  be  a  while. 

There  may  full  many  a  sighte  you  beguile. 

Beware,  I  pray  you,  for,  by  heaven's  king. 

Full  many  a  man  weeneth  to  see  a  thing. 

And  it  is  all  another  than  it  seemeth; 

He  which  that  misconceiveth  oft  misdeemeth." 

And  with  that  word  she  leapt  down  from  the  tree. 

This  January,  who  is  glad  but  he? 

He  kissed  her,  and  clipped*  her  full  oft,  *embraced 

And  on  her  womb  he  stroked  her  full  soft; 

And  to  his  palace  home  he  hath  her  lad.*  *led 

Now,  goode  men,  I  pray  you  to  be  glad. 

Thus  endeth  here  my  tale  of  January, 

God  bless  us,  and  his  mother,  Sainte  Mary. 


The  Prologue. 


"HEY!  Godde's  mercy!"  said  our  Hoste  tho, 
"Now  such  a  wife  I  pray  God  keep  me  fro'. 
Lo,  suche  sleightes  and  subtilities 
In  women  be;  for  aye  as  busy  as  bees 
Are  they  us  silly  men  for  to  deceive. 
And  from  the  soothe*  will  they  ever  weive,** 
As  this  Merchante's  tale  it  proveth  well. 
But  natheless,  as  true  as  any  steel, 
I  have  a  wife,  though  that  she  poore  be; 
But  of  her  tongue  a  labbing*  shrew  is  she; 
And  yet*  she  hath  a  heap  of  vices  mo'. 
Thereof  *no  force;*  let  all  such  thinges  go. 
But  wit*  ye  what?  in  counsel**  be  it  said. 
Me  rueth  sore  I  am  unto  her  tied; 
For,  an'*  I  shoulde  reckon  every  vice 
Which  that  she  hath,  y-wis*  I  were  too  nice;* 
And  cause  why,  it  should  reported  be 
And  told  her  by  some  of  this  company 
(By  whom,  it  needeth  not  for  to  declare. 
Since  women  connen  utter  such  chaffare  <  1  > 
And  eke  my  wit  sufficeth  not  thereto 
To  tellen  all;  wherefore  my  tale  is  do.* 
Squier,  come  near,  if  it  your  wille  be. 
And  say  somewhat  of  love,  for  certes  ye 
*Conne  thereon*  as  much  as  any  man." 
"Nay,  Sir,"  quoth  he;  "but  such  thing  as  I  can. 
With  hearty  will,  —  for  I  will  not  rebel 
Against  your  lust,*  —  a  tale  will  I  tell. 


*then 


*truth  **swerve,  depart 


*chattering 
*moreover 
*no  matter* 
know  **secret,  confidence 

*if 
*certainly  **foolish 


*done 


*know  about  it* 


*pleasure 


330 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Have  me  excused  if  I  speak  amiss; 

My  will  is  good;  and  lo,  my  tale  is  this." 


The  Tale. 


*Pars  Prima.' 


*First  part* 


At  Sarra,  in  the  land  of  Tartary, 

There  dwelt  a  king  that  warrayed*  Russie,  <2>  *made  war  on 

Through  which  there  died  many  a  doughty  man; 

This  noble  king  was  called  Cambuscan,<3> 

Which  in  his  time  was  of  so  great  renown, 

That  there  was  nowhere  in  no  regioun 

So  excellent  a  lord  in  alle  thing: 

Him  lacked  nought  that  longeth  to  a  king, 

As  of  the  sect  of  which  that  he  was  born. 

He  kept  his  law  to  which  he  was  y-sworn. 

And  thereto*  he  was  hardy,  wise,  and  rich,  *moreover,  besides 

And  piteous  and  just,  always  y-lich;*  *alike,  even-tempered 

True  of  his  word,  benign  and  honourable; 

*Of  his  corage  as  any  centre  stable;*         *firm,  immovable  of  spirit* 

Young,  fresh,  and  strong,  in  armes  desirous 

As  any  bachelor  of  all  his  house. 

A  fair  person  he  was,  and  fortunate. 

And  kept  alway  so  well  his  royal  estate. 

That  there  was  nowhere  such  another  man. 

This  noble  king,  this  Tartar  Cambuscan, 

Hadde  two  sons  by  Elfeta  his  wife. 

Of  which  the  eldest  highte  Algarsife, 

The  other  was  y-called  Camballo. 

A  daughter  had  this  worthy  king  also. 

That  youngest  was,  and  highte  Canace: 

But  for  to  telle  you  all  her  beauty. 

It  lies  not  in  my  tongue,  nor  my  conning;*  *skill 


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I  dare  not  undertake  so  high  a  thing: 

Mine  English  eke  is  insufficient. 

It  muste  be  a  rhetor*  excellent,  *orator 

*That  couth  his  colours  longing  for  that  art,*  *  see  <4>* 

If  he  should  her  describen  any  part; 

I  am  none  such,  I  must  speak  as  I  can. 


331 


And  so  befell,  that  when  this  Cambuscan 

Had  twenty  winters  borne  his  diadem. 

As  he  was  wont  from  year  to  year,  I  deem. 

He  let  *the  feast  of  his  nativity* 

*Do  crye,*  throughout  Sarra  his  city. 

The  last  Idus  of  March,  after  the  year. 

Phoebus  the  sun  full  jolly  was  and  clear. 

For  he  was  nigh  his  exaltation 

In  Marte's  face,  and  in  his  mansion  <5> 

In  Aries,  the  choleric  hot  sign: 

Full  lusty*  was  the  weather  and  benign; 

For  which  the  fowls  against  the  sunne  sheen,^ 

What  for  the  season  and  the  younge  green. 

Full  loude  sange  their  affections: 

Them  seemed  to  have  got  protections 

Against  the  sword  of  winter  keen  and  cold. 

This  Cambuscan,  of  which  I  have  you  told. 

In  royal  vesture,  sat  upon  his  dais. 

With  diadem,  full  high  in  his  palace; 

And  held  his  feast  so  solemn  and  so  rich. 

That  in  this  worlde  was  there  none  it  lich.* 

Of  which  if  I  should  tell  all  the  array. 

Then  would  it  occupy  a  summer's  day; 

And  eke  it  needeth  not  for  to  devise* 

At  every  course  the  order  of  service. 

I  will  not  tellen  of  their  strange  sewes,* 

Nor  of  their  swannes,  nor  their  heronsews.* 


his  birthday  party* 

*be  proclaimed* 


*pleasant 
*bright 


*like 


*describe 


*dishes  <6> 
*young  herons  <7> 


332 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Eke  in  that  land,  as  telle  knightes  old, 
There  is  some  meat  that  is  full  dainty  hold. 
That  in  this  land  men  *reck  oP  it  full  small: 
There  is  no  man  that  may  reporten  all. 
I  will  not  tarry  you,  for  it  is  prime. 
And  for  it  is  no  fruit,  but  loss  of  time; 
Unto  my  purpose*  I  will  have  recourse. 
And  so  befell  that,  after  the  third  course. 
While  that  this  king  sat  thus  in  his  nobley,* 
Hearing  his  ministreles  their  thinges  play 
Before  him  at  his  board  deliciously. 
In  at  the  halle  door  all  suddenly 
There  came  a  knight  upon  a  steed  of  brass. 
And  in  his  hand  a  broad  mirror  of  glass; 
Upon  his  thumb  he  had  of  gold  a  ring. 
And  by  his  side  a  naked  sword  hanging: 
And  up  he  rode  unto  the  highe  board. 
In  all  the  hall  was  there  not  spoke  a  word. 
For  marvel  of  this  knight;  him  to  behold 
Full  busily  they  waited,*  young  and  old. 


*care  for* 

*story  <8> 
*noble  array 


*watched 


This  strange  knight,  that  came  thus  suddenly. 
All  armed,  save  his  head,  full  richely. 
Saluted  king,  and  queen,  and  lordes  all. 
By  order  as  they  satten  in  the  hall. 
With  so  high  reverence  and  observance. 
As  well  in  speech  as  in  his  countenance. 
That  Gawain  <9>  with  his  olde  courtesy. 
Though  he  were  come  again  out  of  Faerie, 
Him  *coulde  not  amende  with  a  word.* 
And  after  this,  before  the  highe  board. 
He  with  a  manly  voice  said  his  message. 
After  the  form  used  in  his  language, 
Withoute  vice*  of  syllable  or  letter. 


*could  not  better  him 
by  one  word* 

*fault 


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333 


And,  for  his  tale  shoulde  seem  the  better. 

Accordant  to  his  worde's  was  his  cheer,*  *demeanour 

As  teacheth  art  of  speech  them  that  it  lear.*  *learn 

Albeit  that  I  cannot  sound  his  style. 

Nor  cannot  climb  over  so  high  a  stile. 

Yet  say  I  this,  as  to  *commune  intent,*        *general  sense  or  meaning* 


*Thus  much  amounteth*  all  that  ever  he  meant. 

If  it  so  be  that  I  have  it  in  mind. 

He  said;  "The  king  of  Araby  and  Ind, 

My  liege  lord,  on  this  solemne  day 

Saluteth  you  as  he  best  can  and  may. 

And  sendeth  you,  in  honour  of  your  feast. 

By  me,  that  am  all  ready  at  your  best,* 

This  steed  of  brass,  that  easily  and  well 

Can  in  the  space  of  one  day  naturel 

(This  is  to  say,  in  four-and-twenty  hours), 

Whereso  you  list,  in  drought  or  else  in  show'rs, 

Beare  your  body  into  every  place 

To  which  your  hearte  willeth  for  to  pace,* 

Withoute  wem*  of  you,  through  foul  or  fair. 

Or  if  you  list  to  fly  as  high  in  air 

As  doth  an  eagle,  when  him  list  to  soar. 

This  same  steed  shall  bear  you  evermore 

Withoute  harm,  till  ye  be  where  *you  lest* 

(Though  that  ye  sleepen  on  his  back,  or  rest). 

And  turn  again,  with  writhing*  of  a  pin. 

He  that  it  wrought,  he  coude*  many  a  gin;' 

He  waited*  in  any  a  constellation. 

Ere  he  had  done  this  operation. 

And  knew  full  many  a  seal  <  1 1  >  and  many  a  bond 

This  mirror  eke,  that  I  have  in  mine  bond. 

Hath  such  a  might,  that  men  may  in  it  see 

When  there  shall  fall  any  adversity 

Unto  your  realm,  or  to  yourself  also. 


*this  is  the  sum  of 


*command 


pass,  go 
*hurt,  injury 


*it  pleases  you* 

*twisting 
knew  **contrivance  <  10> 
*observed 


334 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  openly  who  is  your  friend  or  foe. 

And  over  all  this,  if  any  lady  bright 

Hath  set  her  heart  on  any  manner  wight, 

If  he  be  false,  she  shall  his  treason  see. 

His  newe  love,  and  all  his  subtlety. 

So  openly  that  there  shall  nothing  hide. 

Wherefore,  against  this  lusty  summer-tide. 

This  mirror,  and  this  ring  that  ye  may  see. 

He  hath  sent  to  my  lady  Canace, 

Your  excellente  daughter  that  is  here. 

The  virtue  of  this  ring,  if  ye  will  hear. 

Is  this,  that  if  her  list  it  for  to  wear 

Upon  her  thumb,  or  in  her  purse  it  bear. 

There  is  no  fowl  that  flyeth  under  heaven. 

That  she  shall  not  well  understand  his  Steven,* 

And  know  his  meaning  openly  and  plain. 

And  answer  him  in  his  language  again: 

And  every  grass  that  groweth  upon  root 

She  shall  eke  know,  to  whom  it  will  do  boot,* 

All  be  his  woundes  ne'er  so  deep  and  wide. 

This  naked  sword,  that  hangeth  by  my  side. 

Such  virtue  hath,  that  what  man  that  it  smite. 

Throughout  his  armour  it  will  carve  and  bite. 

Were  it  as  thick  as  is  a  branched  oak: 

And  what  man  is  y-wounded  with  the  stroke 

Shall  ne'er  be  whole,  till  that  you  list,  of  grace. 

To  stroke  him  with  the  flat  in  thilke*  place 

Where  he  is  hurt;  this  is  as  much  to  sayn. 

Ye  muste  with  the  flatte  sword  again 

Stroke  him  upon  the  wound,  and  it  will  close. 

This  is  the  very  sooth,  withoute  glose;* 

It  faileth  not,  while  it  is  in  your  hold." 

And  when  this  knight  had  thus  his  tale  told. 


*speech,  sound 


*remedy 


*the  same 


*deceit 


*seated 
*fetched 


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He  rode  out  of  the  hall,  and  down  he  light. 

His  steede,  which  that  shone  as  sunne  bright. 

Stood  in  the  court  as  still  as  any  stone. 

The  knight  is  to  his  chamber  led  anon. 

And  is  unarmed,  and  to  meat  y-set.* 

These  presents  be  full  richely  y-fet,*  — 

This  is  to  say,  the  sword  and  the  mirrour,  — 

And  borne  anon  into  the  highe  tow'r. 

With  certain  officers  ordain'd  therefor; 

And  unto  Canace  the  ring  is  bore 

Solemnely,  where  she  sat  at  the  table; 

But  sickerly,  withouten  any  fable. 

The  horse  of  brass,  that  may  not  be  remued.' 

It  stood  as  it  were  to  the  ground  y-glued; 

There  may  no  man  out  of  the  place  it  drive 

For  no  engine  of  windlass  or  polive;  * 

And  cause  why,  for  they  *can  not  the  craft;* 

And  therefore  in  the  place  they  have  it  laft. 

Till  that  the  knight  hath  taught  them  the  mannere 

To  voide*  him,  as  ye  shall  after  hear. 


335 


*removed  <12> 


*pulley 
know  not  the  cunning 
of  the  mechanism* 


Great  was  the  press,  that  swarmed  to  and  fro 
To  gauren*  on  this  horse  that  stoode  so: 
For  it  so  high  was,  and  so  broad  and  long. 
So  well  proportioned  for  to  be  strong. 
Right  as  it  were  a  steed  of  Lombardy; 
Therewith  so  horsely,  and  so  quick  of  eye. 
As  it  a  gentle  Poileis  <  13  >  courser  were: 
For  certes,  from  his  tail  unto  his  ear 
Nature  nor  art  ne  could  him  not  amend 
In  no  degree,  as  all  the  people  wend.* 
But  evermore  their  moste  wonder  was 
How  that  it  coulde  go,  and  was  of  brass; 
It  was  of  Faerie,  as  the  people  seem'd. 


gaze 


*weened,  thought 


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337 


Diverse  folk  diversely  they  deem'd; 

As  many  heads,  as  many  wittes  been. 

They  murmured,  as  doth  a  swarm  of  been,*  *bees 

And  made  skills*  after  their  fantasies,  *reasons 

Rehearsing  of  the  olde  poetries. 

And  said  that  it  was  like  the  Pegasee,*  *Pegasus 

The  horse  that  hadde  winges  for  to  flee;*  *fly 

Or  else  it  was  the  Greeke's  horse  Sinon,<  14> 

That  broughte  Troye  to  destruction. 

As  men  may  in  the  olde  gestes*  read.  *tales  of  adventures 

Mine  heart,"  quoth  one,  "is  evermore  in  dread; 

I  trow  some  men  of  armes  be  therein. 

That  shape*  them  this  city  for  to  win:  *design,  prepare 

It  were  right  good  that  all  such  thing  were  know." 

Another  rowned*  to  his  fellow  low,  *whispered 

And  said,  "He  lies;  for  it  is  rather  like 

An  apparence  made  by  some  magic. 

As  jugglers  playen  at  these  feastes  great." 

Of  sundry  doubts  they  jangle  thus  and  treat. 

As  lewed*  people  deeme  commonly  *ignorant 

Of  thinges  that  be  made  more  subtilly 

Than  they  can  in  their  lewdness  comprehend; 

They  *deeme  gladly  to  the  badder  end.*  *are  ready  to  think 

And  some  of  them  wonder 'd  on  the  mirrour,  the  worst* 

That  borne  was  up  into  the  master*  tow'r,  *chief  <  15  > 

How  men  might  in  it  suche  thinges  see. 

Another  answer'd  and  said,  it  might  well  be 

Naturally  by  compositions 

Of  angles,  and  of  sly  reflections; 

And  saide  that  in  Rome  was  such  a  one. 

They  speak  of  Alhazen  and  Vitellon,<  16> 

And  Aristotle,  that  wrote  in  their  lives 

Of  quainte*  mirrors,  and  of  prospectives,  *curious 

As  knowe  they  that  have  their  bookes  heard. 


*sword 


*wound 


*however 


*a  reputation  for 
knowledge* 


And  other  folk  have  wonder 'd  on  the  swerd,* 

That  woulde  pierce  throughout  every  thing; 

And  fell  in  speech  of  Telephus  the  king. 

And  of  Achilles  for  his  quainte  spear,  <17> 

For  he  could  with  it  bothe  heal  and  dere,* 

Right  in  such  wise  as  men  may  with  the  swerd 

Of  which  right  now  ye  have  yourselves  heard. 

They  spake  of  sundry  hard'ning  of  metal. 

And  spake  of  medicines  therewithal. 

And  how,  and  when,  it  shoulde  harden'd  be. 

Which  is  unknowen  algate*  unto  me. 

Then  spake  they  of  Canacee's  ring. 

And  saiden  all,  that  such  a  wondrous  thing 

Of  craft  of  rings  heard  they  never  none. 

Save  that  he,  Moses,  and  King  Solomon, 

Hadden  *a  name  of  conning*  in  such  art. 

Thus  said  the  people,  and  drew  them  apart. 

Put  natheless  some  saide  that  it  was 

Wonder  to  maken  of  fern  ashes  glass. 

And  yet  is  glass  nought  like  ashes  of  fern; 

*But  for*  they  have  y-knowen  it  so  feme**         *because  **before  <  18> 

Therefore  ceaseth  their  jangling  and  their  wonder. 

As  sore  wonder  some  on  cause  of  thunder. 

On  ebb  and  flood,  on  gossamer  and  mist. 

And  on  all  things,  till  that  the  cause  is  wist.*  *known 

Thus  jangle  they,  and  deemen  and  devise. 

Till  that  the  king  gan  from  his  board  arise. 

Phoebus  had  left  the  angle  meridional. 
And  yet  ascending  was  the  beast  royal. 
The  gentle  Lion,  with  his  Aldrian,  <  19> 
When  that  this  Tartar  king,  this  Cambuscan, 
Rose  from  the  board,  there  as  he  sat  full  high 
Before  him  went  the  loude  minstrelsy. 


338 


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Till  he  came  to  his  chamber  of  parements,<20> 

There  as  they  sounded  diverse  instruments, 

That  it  was  like  a  heaven  for  to  hear. 

Now  danced  lusty  Venus'  children  dear: 

For  in  the  Fish*  their  lady  sat  full  Tisces 

And  looked  on  them  with  a  friendly  eye.  <21  > 

This  noble  king  is  set  upon  his  throne; 

This  strange  knight  is  fetched  to  him  full  sone,*  *soon 

And  on  the  dance  he  goes  with  Canace. 

Here  is  the  revel  and  the  jollity, 

That  is  not  able  a  dull  man  to  devise:*  *describe 

He  must  have  knowen  love  and  his  service. 

And  been  a  feastly*  man,  as  fresh  as  May,  *merry,  gay 

That  shoulde  you  devise  such  array. 

Who  coulde  telle  you  the  form  of  dances 

So  uncouth,*  and  so  freshe  countenances**  *unfamliar  **gestures 

Such  subtle  lookings  and  dissimulances. 

For  dread  of  jealous  men's  apperceivings? 

No  man  but  Launcelot,<22>  and  he  is  dead. 

Therefore  I  pass  o'er  all  this  lustihead*  *pleasantness 

I  say  no  more,  but  in  this  jolliness 

I  leave  them,  till  to  supper  men  them  dress. 

The  steward  bids  the  spices  for  to  hie*  *haste 

And  eke  the  wine,  in  all  this  melody; 

The  ushers  and  the  squiers  be  y-gone. 

The  spices  and  the  wine  is  come  anon; 

They  eat  and  drink,  and  when  this  hath  an  end. 

Unto  the  temple,  as  reason  was,  they  wend; 

The  service  done,  they  suppen  all  by  day 

What  needeth  you  rehearse  their  array? 

Each  man  wot  well,  that  at  a  kinge's  feast 

Is  plenty,  to  the  most*,  and  to  the  least,  *highest 

And  dainties  more  than  be  in  my  knowing. 


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339 


At  after  supper  went  this  noble  king 

To  see  the  horse  of  brass,  with  all  a  rout 

Of  lordes  and  of  ladies  him  about. 

Such  wond'ring  was  there  on  this  horse  of  brass. 

That,  since  the  great  siege  of  Troye  was. 

There  as  men  wonder 'd  on  a  horse  also. 

Ne'er  was  there  such  a  wond'ring  as  was  tho.* 

But  fmally  the  king  asked  the  knight 

The  virtue  of  this  courser,  and  the  might. 

And  prayed  him  to  tell  his  governance.*  * 

The  horse  anon  began  to  trip  and  dance. 

When  that  the  knight  laid  hand  upon  his  rein. 

And  saide,  "Sir,  there  is  no  more  to  sayn. 

But  when  you  list  to  riden  anywhere. 

Ye  muste  trill*  a  pin,  stands  in  his  ear. 

Which  I  shall  telle  you  betwixt  us  two; 

Ye  muste  name  him  to  what  place  also. 

Or  to  what  country  that  you  list  to  ride. 

And  when  ye  come  where  you  list  abide. 

Bid  him  descend,  and  trill  another  pin 

(For  therein  lies  th'  effect  of  all  the  gin*). 

And  he  will  down  descend  and  do  your  will. 

And  in  that  place  he  will  abide  still; 

Though  all  the  world  had  the  contrary  swore. 

He  shall  not  thence  be  throwen  nor  be  bore. 

Or,  if  you  list  to  bid  him  thennes  gon. 

Trill  this  pin,  and  he  will  vanish  anon 

Out  of  the  sight  of  every  manner  wight. 

And  come  again,  be  it  by  day  or  night. 

When  that  you  list  to  clepe*  him  again 

In  such  a  guise,  as  I  shall  to  you  sayn 

Betwixte  you  and  me,  and  that  full  soon. 

Ride  <24>  when  you  list,  there  is  no  more  to  do'n.' 

Informed  when  the  king  was  of  the  knight. 


*there 


mode  of  managing  him 


'turn  <23> 


contrivance  <10> 


*call 


340 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  had  conceived  in  his  wit  aright 

The  manner  and  the  form  of  all  this  thing, 

Full  glad  and  blithe,  this  noble  doughty  king 

Repaired  to  his  revel  as  beforn. 

The  bridle  is  into  the  tower  borne. 

And  kept  among  his  jewels  lefe*  and  dear;  *cherished 

The  horse  vanish'd,  I  not*  in  what  mannere,  *know  not 

Out  of  their  sight;  ye  get  no  more  of  me: 

But  thus  I  leave  in  lust  and  jollity 

This  Cambuscan  his  lordes  feastying,*  *entertaining  <25> 

Until  well  nigh  the  day  began  to  spring. 


*Pars  Secunda.^ 


*Second  Part* 


The  norice*  of  digestion,  the  sleep,  *nurse 

Gan  on  them  wink,  and  bade  them  take  keep,*  *heed 

That  muche  mirth  and  labour  will  have  rest. 

And  with  a  gaping*  mouth  he  all  them  kest,**  *yawning  **kissed 

And  said,  that  it  was  time  to  lie  down. 

For  blood  was  in  his  dominatioun:  <26> 

"Cherish  the  blood,  nature's  friend,"  quoth  he. 

They  thanked  him  gaping,  by  two  and  three; 

And  every  wight  gan  draw  him  to  his  rest; 

As  sleep  them  bade,  they  took  it  for  the  best. 

Their  dreames  shall  not  now  be  told  for  me; 

Full  are  their  heades  of  fumosity,<27> 

That  caused  dreams  *of  which  there  is  no  charge:*   *of  no  significance* 

They  slepte;  till  that,  it  was  *prime  large,*  *late  morning* 

The  moste  part,  but*  it  was  Canace;  *except 

She  was  full  measurable,*  as  women  be:  *moderate 

For  of  her  father  had  she  ta'en  her  leave 

To  go  to  rest,  soon  after  it  was  eve; 


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Her  liste  not  appalled*  for  to  be; 
Nor  on  the  morrow  *unfeastly  for  to  see;* 
And  slept  her  firste  sleep;  and  then  awoke. 
For  such  a  joy  she  in  her  hearte  took 
Both  of  her  quainte  a  ring  and  her  mirrour,. 
That  twenty  times  she  changed  her  colour; 
And  in  her  sleep,  right  for  th'  impression 
Of  her  mirror,  she  had  a  vision. 
Wherefore,  ere  that  the  sunne  gan  up  glide. 
She  call'd  upon  her  mistress'*  her  beside. 
And  saide,  that  her  liste  for  to  rise. 


341 


*to  look  pale 
*to  look  sad,  depressed* 


governesses 


These  olde  women,  that  be  gladly  wise 

As  are  her  mistresses  answer'd  anon. 

And  said;  "Madame,  whither  will  ye  gon 

Thus  early?  for  the  folk  be  all  in  rest." 

"I  will,"  quoth  she,  "arise;  for  me  lest 

No  longer  for  to  sleep,  and  walk  about." 

Her  mistresses  call'd  women  a  great  rout. 

And  up  they  rose,  well  a  ten  or  twelve; 

Up  rose  freshe  Canace  herselve. 

As  ruddy  and  bright  as  is  the  yonnge  sun 

That  in  the  Ram  is  four  degrees  y-run; 

No  higher  was  he,  when  she  ready  was; 

And  forth  she  walked  easily  a  pace. 

Array 'd  after  the  lusty*  season  swoot,** 

Lightely  for  to  play,  and  walk  on  foot. 

Nought  but  with  five  or  six  of  her  meinie; 

And  in  a  trench*  forth  in  the  park  went  she. 

The  vapour,  which  up  from  the  earthe  glode,* 

Made  the  sun  to  seem  ruddy  and  broad: 

But,  natheless,  it  was  so  fair  a  sight 

That  it  made  all  their  heartes  for  to  light,* 

What  for  the  season  and  the  morrowning. 


*pleasant  **sweet 


*sunken  path 
*glided 


*be  lightened,  glad 


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And  for  the  fowles  that  she  hearde  sing. 

For  right  anon  she  wiste*  what  they  meant  *knew 

Right  by  their  song,  and  knew  all  their  intent. 

The  knotte,*  why  that  every  tale  is  told,  *nucleus,  chief  matter 

If  it  be  tarried*  till  the  list*  be  cold  *delayed  **inclination 

Of  them  that  have  it  hearken'd  *after  yore,*  *for  a  long  time* 

The  savour  passeth  ever  longer  more; 

For  fulsomness  of  the  prolixity: 

And  by  that  same  reason  thinketh  me. 

I  shoulde  unto  the  knotte  condescend. 

And  maken  of  her  walking  soon  an  end. 


Amid  a  tree  fordry*,  as  white  as  chalk,  *thoroughly  dried  up 

There  sat  a  falcon  o'er  her  head  full  high. 

That  with  a  piteous  voice  so  gan  to  cry; 

That  all  the  wood  resounded  of  her  cry. 

And  beat  she  had  herself  so  piteously 

With  both  her  winges,  till  the  redde  blood 

Ran  endelong*  the  tree,  there  as  she  stood  *from  top  to  bottom 

And  ever-in-one*  alway  she  cried  and  shright;**  *incessantly  **shrieked 

And  with  her  beak  herselfe  she  so  pight,*  *wounded 

That  there  is  no  tiger,  nor  cruel  beast. 

That  dwelleth  either  in  wood  or  in  forest; 

But  would  have  wept,  if  that  he  weepe  could. 

For  sorrow  of  her;  she  shriek'd  alway  so  loud. 

For  there  was  never  yet  no  man  alive. 

If  that  he  could  a  falcon  well  descrive;*  *describe 

That  heard  of  such  another  of  fairness 

As  well  of  plumage,  as  of  gentleness; 

Of  shape,  of  all  that  mighte  reckon'd  be. 

A  falcon  peregrine  seemed  she. 

Of  fremde*  land;  and  ever  as  she  stood  *foreign  <28> 

She  swooned  now  and  now  for  lack  of  blood; 

Till  well-nigh  is  she  fallen  from  the  tree. 


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343 


This  faire  kinge's  daughter  Canace, 

That  on  her  fmger  bare  the  quainte  ring. 

Through  which  she  understood  well  every  thing 

That  any  fowl  may  in  his  leden*  sayn,  **language  <29> 

And  could  him  answer  in  his  leden  again; 

Hath  understoode  what  this  falcon  said. 

And  well-nigh  for  the  ruth*  almost  she  died;.  *pity 

And  to  the  tree  she  went,  full  hastily. 

And  on  this  falcon  looked  piteously; 

And  held  her  lap  abroad;  for  well  she  wist 

The  falcon  muste  falle  from  the  twist*  *twig,  bough 

When  that  she  swooned  next,  for  lack  of  blood. 

A  longe  while  to  waite  her  she  stood; 

Till  at  the  last  she  apake  in  this  mannere 

Unto  the  hawk,  as  ye  shall  after  hear: 

"What  is  the  cause,  if  it  be  for  to  tell. 

That  ye  be  in  this  furial*  pain  of  hell?"  *raging,  furious 

Quoth  Canace  unto  this  hawk  above; 

"Is  this  for  sorrow  of  of  death;  or  loss  of  love? 

For;  as  I  trow,*  these  be  the  causes  two;  *believe 

That  cause  most  a  gentle  hearte  woe: 

Of  other  harm  it  needeth  not  to  speak. 

For  ye  yourself  upon  yourself  awreak;*  *inflict 

Which  proveth  well,  that  either  ire  or  dread*  *fear 

Must  be  occasion  of  your  cruel  deed. 

Since  that  I  see  none  other  wight  you  chase: 

For  love  of  God,  as  *do  yourselfe  grace;*  *have  mercy  on 

Or  what  may  be  your  help?  for,  west  nor  east,  yourselP 

I  never  saw  ere  now  no  bird  nor  beast 

That  fared  with  himself  so  piteously 

Ye  slay  me  with  your  sorrow  verily; 

I  have  of  you  so  great  compassioun. 

For  Godde's  love  come  from  the  tree  adown 


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345 


And,  as  I  am  a  kinge's  daughter  true, 
If  that  I  verily  the  causes  knew 
Of  your  disease,*  if  it  lay  in  my  might, 
I  would  amend  it,  ere  that  it  were  night. 
So  wisly  help  me  the  great  God  of  kind.** 
And  herbes  shall  I  right  enoughe  fmd. 
To  heale  with  your  hurtes  hastily." 
Then  shriek'd  this  falcon  yet  more  piteously 
Than  ever  she  did,  and  fell  to  ground  anon. 
And  lay  aswoon,  as  dead  as  lies  a  stone. 
Till  Canace  had  in  her  lap  her  take. 
Unto  that  time  she  gan  of  swoon  awake: 
And,  after  that  she  out  of  swoon  abraid,* 
Right  in  her  hawke's  leden  thus  she  said: 


*distress 
*surely  **nature 


*awoke 


"That  pity  runneth  soon  in  gentle  heart 

(Feeling  his  simil'tude  in  paines  smart). 

Is  proved  every  day,  as  men  may  see. 

As  well  *by  work  as  by  authority;*        *by  experience  as  by  doctrine* 

For  gentle  hearte  kitheth*  gentleness.  *sheweth 

I  see  well,  that  ye  have  on  my  distress 

Compassion,  my  faire  Canace, 

Of  very  womanly  benignity 

That  nature  in  your  princples  hath  set. 

But  for  no  hope  for  to  fare  the  bet,* 

But  for  t'  obey  unto  your  hearte  free. 

And  for  to  make  others  aware  by  me. 

As  by  the  whelp  chastis'd*  is  the  lion. 

Right  for  that  cause  and  that  conclusion. 

While  that  I  have  a  leisure  and  a  space. 

Mine  harm  I  will  confessen  ere  I  pace."*  *depart 

And  ever  while  the  one  her  sorrow  told. 

The  other  wept,  *as  she  to  water  wold,*       *as  if  she  would  dissolve 

Till  that  the  falcon  bade  her  to  be  still,  into  water* 


*better 


*instructed,  corrected 


And  with  a  sigh  right  thus  she  said  *her  till:* 

"Where  I  was  bred  (alas  that  ilke*  day!) 

And  foster 'd  in  a  rock  of  marble  gray 

So  tenderly,  that  nothing  ailed  me, 

I  wiste*  not  what  was  adversity. 

Till  I  could  flee*  full  high  under  the  sky. 

Then  dwell'd  a  tercelet  <30>  me  faste  by. 

That  seem'd  a  well  of  alle  gentleness; 

*A11  were  he*  full  of  treason  and  falseness. 

It  was  so  wrapped  *under  humble  cheer,* 

And  under  hue  of  truth,  in  such  mannere. 

Under  pleasance,  and  under  busy  pain. 

That  no  wight  weened  that  he  coulde  feign. 

So  deep  in  grain  he  dyed  his  colours. 

Right  as  a  serpent  hides  him  under  flow'rs. 

Till  he  may  see  his  time  for  to  bite. 

Right  so  this  god  of  love's  hypocrite 

Did  so  his  ceremonies  and  obeisances. 

And  kept  in  semblance  all  his  observances. 

That  *sounden  unto*  gentleness  of  love. 

As  on  a  tomb  is  all  the  fair  above. 

And  under  is  the  corpse,  which  that  ye  wet. 

Such  was  this  hypocrite,  both  cold  and  hot; 

And  in  this  wise  he  served  his  intent. 

That,  save  the  fiend,  none  wiste  what  he  meant: 

Till  he  so  long  had  weeped  and  complain'd. 

And  many  a  year  his  service  to  me  feign'd. 

Till  that  mine  heart,  too  piteous  and  too  nice,* 

All  innocent  of  his  crowned  malice, 

*Forfeared  of  his  death,*  as  thoughte  me. 

Upon  his  oathes  and  his  surety 

Granted  him  love,  on  this  conditioun. 

That  evermore  mine  honour  and  renown 

Were  saved,  bothe  *privy  and  apert;* 


*to  her* 
*same 


*knew 
*fly 


*although  he  was* 
*under  an  aspect 
of  humility* 


are  consonant  to 


*foolish,  simple 

*greatly  afraid  lest 
he  should  die* 


privately  and  in  public* 


346 


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This  is  to  say,  that,  after  his  desert, 

I  gave  him  all  my  heart  and  all  my  thought 

(God  wot,  and  he,  that  *other  wayes  nought*),  *in  no  other  way* 

And  took  his  heart  in  change  of  mine  for  aye. 

But  sooth  is  said,  gone  since  many  a  day, 

A  true  wight  and  a  thiefe  *think  not  one.*  *do  not  think  alike* 

And  when  he  saw  the  thing  so  far  y-gone. 

That  I  had  granted  him  fully  my  love. 

In  such  a  wise  as  I  have  said  above. 

And  given  him  my  true  heart  as  free 

As  he  swore  that  he  gave  his  heart  to  me. 

Anon  this  tiger,  full  of  doubleness. 

Fell  on  his  knees  with  so  great  humbleness. 

With  so  high  reverence,  as  by  his  cheer,*  *mien 

So  like  a  gentle  lover  in  mannere. 

So  ravish'd,  as  it  seemed,  for  the  joy. 

That  never  Jason,  nor  Paris  of  Troy,  — 

Jason?  certes,  nor  ever  other  man. 

Since  Lamech  <31>  was,  that  alderfirst*  began  *first  of  all 

To  love  two,  as  write  folk  beforn. 

Nor  ever  since  the  firste  man  was  born, 

Coulde  no  man,  by  twenty  thousand 

Counterfeit  the  sophimes*  of  his  art;         *sophistries,  beguilements 

Where  doubleness  of  feigning  should  approach. 

Nor  worthy  were  t'unbuckle  his  galoche,*  *shoe  <32> 

Nor  could  so  thank  a  wight,  as  he  did  me. 

His  manner  was  a  heaven  for  to  see 

To  any  woman,  were  she  ne'er  so  wise; 

So  painted  he  and  kempt,*  *at  point  devise,*  *combed,  studied 

As  well  his  wordes  as  his  countenance.  *with  perfect  precision* 

And  I  so  lov'd  him  for  his  obeisance. 

And  for  the  truth  I  deemed  in  his  heart. 

That,  if  so  were  that  any  thing  him  smart,*  *pained 

All  were  it  ne'er  so  lite,*  and  I  it  wist,  *little 


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Methought  I  felt  death  at  my  hearte  twist. 
And  shortly,  so  farforth  this  thing  is  went,* 
That  my  will  was  his  wille's  instrument; 
That  is  to  say,  my  will  obey'd  his  will 
In  alle  thing,  as  far  as  reason  fill,* 
Keeping  the  boundes  of  my  worship  ever; 
And  never  had  I  thing  *so  lefe,  or  lever,* 
As  him,  God  wot,  nor  never  shall  no  mo'. 


gone 

*fell;  allowed 

*so  dear,  or  dearer* 


347 


"This  lasted  longer  than  a  year  or  two. 

That  I  supposed  of  him  naught  but  good. 

But  finally,  thus  at  the  last  it  stood. 

That  fortune  woulde  that  he  muste  twin*  *depart,  separate 

Out  of  that  place  which  that  I  was  in. 

Whe'er*  me  was  woe,  it  is  no  question;  *whether 

I  cannot  make  of  it  description. 

For  one  thing  dare  I  telle  boldely, 

I  know  what  is  the  pain  of  death  thereby; 

Such  harm  I  felt,  for  he  might  not  byleve.*  *stay  <33> 

So  on  a  day  of  me  he  took  his  leave. 

So  sorrowful  eke,  that  I  ween'd  verily. 

That  he  had  felt  as  muche  harm  as  I, 

When  that  I  heard  him  speak,  and  saw  his  hue. 

But  natheless,  I  thought  he  was  so  true. 

And  eke  that  he  repaire  should  again 

Within  a  little  while,  sooth  to  sayn. 

And  reason  would  eke  that  he  muste  go 

For  his  honour,  as  often  happ'neth  so. 

That  I  made  virtue  of  necessity. 

And  took  it  well,  since  that  it  muste  be. 

As  I  best  might,  I  hid  from  him  my  sorrow. 

And  took  him  by  the  hand.  Saint  John  to  borrow,*         *witness,  pledge 

And  said  him  thus;  'Lo,  I  am  youres  all; 

Be  such  as  I  have  been  to  you,  and  shall' 


348 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


What  he  answer 'd,  it  needs  not  to  rehearse; 

Who  can  say  bet*  than  he,  who  can  do  worse?  *better 

When  he  had  all  well  said,  then  had  he  done. 

Therefore  behoveth  him  a  full  long  spoon. 

That  shall  eat  with  a  fiend;  thus  heard  I  say. 

So  at  the  last  he  muste  forth  his  way. 

And  forth  he  flew,  till  he  came  where  him  lest. 

When  it  came  him  to  purpose  for  to  rest, 

I  trow  that  he  had  thilke  text  in  mind. 

That  alle  thing  repairing  to  his  kind 

Gladdeth  himself;  <34>  thus  say  men,  as  I  guess; 

*Men  love  of  [proper]  kind  newfangleness,*  *see  note  <35>* 

As  birdes  do,  that  men  in  cages  feed. 

For  though  thou  night  and  day  take  of  them  heed. 

And  strew  their  cage  fair  and  soft  as  silk. 

And  give  them  sugar,  honey,  bread,  and  milk. 

Yet,  *right  anon  as  that  his  door  is  up,* 

He  with  his  feet  will  spurne  down  his  cup. 

And  to  the  wood  he  will,  and  wormes  eat; 

So  newefangle  be  they  of  their  meat. 

And  love  novelties,  of  proper  kind; 

No  gentleness  of  bloode  may  them  bind. 

So  far'd  this  tercelet,  alas  the  day! 

Though  he  were  gentle  born,  and  fresh,  and  gay. 

And  goodly  for  to  see,  and  humble,  and  free. 

He  saw  upon  a  time  a  kite  flee,*  *fly 

And  suddenly  he  loved  this  kite  so. 

That  all  his  love  is  clean  from  me  y-go: 

And  hath  his  trothe  falsed  in  this  wise. 

Thus  hath  the  kite  my  love  in  her  service. 

And  I  am  lorn*  withoute  remedy."  *lost,  undone 


immediately  on  his 
door  being  opened* 


And  with  that  word  this  falcon  gan  to  cry. 
And  swooned  eft*  in  Canacee's  barme** 


*again  **lap 


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Great  was  the  sorrow,  for  that  hawke's  harm. 

That  Canace  and  all  her  women  made; 

They  wist  not  how  they  might  the  falcon  glade.*  *gladden 

But  Canace  home  bare  her  in  her  lap. 

And  softely  in  plasters  gan  her  wrap. 

There  as  she  with  her  beak  had  hurt  herselve. 

Now  cannot  Canace  but  herbes  delve 

Out  of  the  ground,  and  make  salves  new 

Of  herbes  precious  and  fme  of  hue. 

To  heale  with  this  hawk;  from  day  to  night 

She  did  her  business,  and  all  her  might. 

And  by  her  bedde's  head  she  made  a  mew,*  *bird  cage 

And  cover 'd  it  with  velouettes*  blue,  <  3  6  >  *velvets 

In  sign  of  truth  that  is  in  woman  seen; 

And  all  without  the  mew  is  painted  green. 

In  which  were  painted  all  these  false  fowls. 

As  be  these  tidifes,*  tercelets,  and  owls;  *titmice 

And  pies,  on  them  for  to  cry  and  chide. 

Right  for  despite  were  painted  them  beside. 


349 


Thus  leave  I  Canace  her  hawk  keeping. 
I  will  no  more  as  now  speak  of  her  ring. 
Till  it  come  eft*  to  purpose  for  to  sayn 
How  that  this  falcon  got  her  love  again 
Repentant,  as  the  story  telleth  us. 
By  mediation  of  Camballus, 
The  kinge's  son  of  which  that  I  you  told. 
But  henceforth  I  will  my  process  hold 
To  speak  of  aventures,  and  of  battailes. 
That  yet  was  never  heard  so  great  marvailles. 
First  I  will  telle  you  of  Cambuscan, 
That  in  his  time  many  a  city  wan; 
And  after  will  I  speak  of  Algarsife, 
How  he  won  Theodora  to  his  wife. 


agam 


350 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  whom  full  oft  in  great  peril  he  was, 
*N'had  he*  been  holpen  by  the  horse  of  brass. 
And  after  will  I  speak  of  Camballo,  <37> 
That  fought  in  listes  with  the  brethren  two 
For  Canace,  ere  that  he  might  her  win; 
And  where  I  left  I  will  again  begin. 
.      <38> 


*had  he  not* 


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351 


^^mjo^^^}^  ^yme. 


The  Prologue. 


"IN  faith,  Squier,  thou  hast  thee  well  acquit. 

And  gentilly;  I  praise  well  thy  wit," 

Quoth  the  Franklin;  "considering  thy  youthe 

So  feelingly  thou  speak'st.  Sir,  I  aloue*  thee, 

*As  to  my  doom,*  there  is  none  that  is  here 

Of  eloquence  that  shall  be  thy  peer. 

If  that  thou  live;  God  give  thee  goode  chance. 

And  in  virtue  send  thee  continuance. 

For  of  thy  speaking  I  have  great  dainty* 

I  have  a  son,  and,  by  the  Trinity; 

*It  were  me  lever*  than  twenty  pound  worth  land. 

Though  it  right  now  were  fallen  in  my  hand. 

He  were  a  man  of  such  discretion 

As  that  ye  be:  fy  on  possession, 

*But  iP  a  man  be  virtuous  withal. 

I  have  my  sone  snibbed*  and  yet  shall. 

For  he  to  virtue  *listeth  not  t'intend,* 

But  for  to  play  at  dice,  and  to  dispend. 

And  lose  all  that  he  hath,  is  his  usage; 

And  he  had  lever  talke  with  a  page. 

Than  to  commune  with  any  gentle  wight. 

There  he  might  learen  gentilless  aright." 


*allow,  approve 
*so  far  as  my  judgment 
goes* 


*value,  esteem 


*I  would  rather* 


*unless 
*rebuked;  "snubbed." 
*does  not  wish  to 
apply  himself 


^ 


352 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Straw  for  your  gentillesse!"  quoth  our  Host. 

"What?  Frankelin,  pardie,  Sir,  well  thou  wost*  *knowest 

That  each  of  you  must  tellen  at  the  least 

A  tale  or  two,  or  breake  his  behest."*  *promise 

"That  know  I  well.  Sir,"  quoth  the  Frankelin; 

"I  pray  you  have  me  not  in  disdain. 

Though  I  to  this  man  speak  a  word  or  two." 

"Tell  on  thy  tale,  withoute  wordes  mo'." 

"Gladly,  Sir  Host,"  quoth  he,  "I  will  obey 

Unto  your  will;  now  hearken  what  I  say; 

I  will  you  not  contrary*  in  no  wise,  *disobey 

As  far  as  that  my  wittes  may  suffice. 

I  pray  to  God  that  it  may  please  you. 

Then  wot  I  well  that  it  is  good  enow. 

"These  olde  gentle  Bretons,  in  their  days. 

Of  divers  aventures  made  lays,<2> 

Rhymeden  in  their  firste  Breton  tongue; 

Which  layes  with  their  instruments  they  sung. 

Or  elles  reade  them  for  their  pleasance; 

And  one  of  them  have  I  in  remembrance. 

Which  I  shall  say  with  good  will  as  I  can. 

But,  Sirs,  because  I  am  a  borel*  man,  *rude,  unlearned 

At  my  beginning  first  I  you  beseech 

Have  me  excused  of  my  rude  speech. 

I  learned  never  rhetoric,  certain; 

Thing  that  I  speak,  it  must  be  bare  and  plain. 

I  slept  never  on  the  mount  of  Parnasso, 

Nor  learned  Marcus  Tullius  Cicero. 

Coloures  know  I  none,  withoute  dread,*  *doubt 

But  such  colours  as  growen  in  the  mead. 

Or  elles  such  as  men  dye  with  or  paint; 

Colours  of  rhetoric  be  to  me  quaint;*  *strange 

My  spirit  feeleth  not  of  such  mattere. 


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But,  if  you  list,  my  tale  shall  ye  hear." 


The  Tale. 

In  Armoric',  that  called  is  Bretagne, 

There  was  a  knight,  that  lov'd  and  *did  his  pain* 

To  serve  a  lady  in  his  beste  wise; 

And  many  a  labour,  many  a  great  emprise,* 

He  for  his  lady  wrought,  ere  she  were  won: 

For  she  was  one  the  fairest  under  sun. 

And  eke  thereto  come  of  so  high  kindred. 

That  *well  unnethes  durst  this  knight  for  dread. 

Tell  her  his  woe,  his  pain,  and  his  distress 

But,  at  the  last,  she  for  his  worthiness. 

And  namely*  for  his  meek  obeisance. 

Hath  such  a  pity  caught  of  his  penance,*  ^ 

That  privily  she  fell  of  his  accord 

To  take  him  for  her  husband  and  her  lord 

(Of  such  lordship  as  men  have  o'er  their  wives); 

And,  for  to  lead  the  more  in  bliss  their  lives. 

Of  his  free  will  he  swore  her  as  a  knight. 

That  never  in  all  his  life  he  day  nor  night 

Should  take  upon  himself  no  mastery 

Against  her  will,  nor  kithe*  her  jealousy. 

But  her  obey,  and  follow  her  will  in  all. 

As  any  lover  to  his  lady  shall; 

Save  that  the  name  of  sovereignety 

That  would  he  have,  for  shame  of  his  degree. 

She  thanked  him,  and  with  full  great  humbless 

She  saide;  "Sir,  since  of  your  gentleness 

Ye  proffer  me  to  have  so  large  a  reign, 

*Ne  woulde  God  never  betwixt  us  twain. 

As  in  my  guilt,  were  either  war  or  strife:* 


353 


*devoted  himself, 
strove* 

*enterprise 


*seenote  <1> 


*especially 
suffering,  distress 


*show 


*see  note  <2>* 


354 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Sir,  I  will  be  your  humble  true  wife, 

Have  here  my  troth,  till  that  my  hearte  brest.' 

Thus  be  they  both  in  quiet  and  in  rest. 


*burst 


For  one  thing.  Sires,  safely  dare  I  say. 

That  friends  ever  each  other  must  obey. 

If  they  will  longe  hold  in  company 

Love  will  not  be  constraint  by  mastery 

When  mast'ry  comes,  the  god  of  love  anon 

Beateth  <3>  his  wings,  and,  farewell,  he  is  gone. 

Love  is  a  thing  as  any  spirit  free. 

Women  *of  kind*  desire  liberty,  *by  nature* 

And  not  to  be  constrained  as  a  thrall,*  *slave 

And  so  do  men,  if  soothly  I  say  shall. 

Look  who  that  is  most  patient  in  love. 

He  *is  at  his  advantage  all  above.*  *enjoys  the  highest 

Patience  is  a  high  virtue  certain,  advantages  of  all* 

For  it  vanquisheth,  as  these  clerkes  sayn, 

Thinges  that  rigour  never  should  attain. 

For  every  word  men  may  not  chide  or  plain. 

Learne  to  suffer,  or,  so  may  I  go,*  *prosper 

Ye  shall  it  learn  whether  ye  will  or  no. 

For  in  this  world  certain  no  wight  there  is. 

That  he  not  doth  or  saith  sometimes  amiss. 

Ire,  or  sickness,  or  constellation,*  *the  influence  of 

Wine,  woe,  or  changing  of  complexion,  the  planets* 

Causeth  full  oft  to  do  amiss  or  speaken: 

On  every  wrong  a  man  may  not  be  wreaken.*  *revenged 

After*  the  time  must  be  temperance  *according  to 

To  every  wight  that  *can  oP  governance.  *is  capable  of 

And  therefore  hath  this  worthy  wise  knight 

(To  live  in  ease)  sufferance  her  behight;*  *promised 

And  she  to  him  full  wisly*  gan  to  swear  *surely 

That  never  should  there  be  default  in  her. 


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Here  may  men  see  a  humble  wife  accord; 

Thus  hath  she  ta'en  her  servant  and  her  lord. 

Servant  in  love,  and  lord  in  marriage. 

Then  was  he  both  in  lordship  and  servage? 

Servage?  nay,  but  in  lordship  all  above. 

Since  he  had  both  his  lady  and  his  love: 

His  lady  certes,  and  his  wife  also. 

The  which  that  law  of  love  accordeth  to. 

And  when  he  was  in  this  prosperrity 

Home  with  his  wife  he  went  to  his  country. 

Not  far  from  Penmark,<4>  where  his  dwelling  was. 

And  there  he  liv'd  in  bliss  and  in  solace.*  *delight 

Who  coulde  tell,  but*  he  had  wedded  be,  *unless 

The  joy,  the  ease,  and  the  prosperity. 

That  is  betwixt  a  husband  and  his  wife? 

A  year  and  more  lasted  this  blissful  life. 

Till  that  this  knight,  of  whom  I  spake  thus. 

That  of  Cairrud  <5>  was  call'd  Arviragus, 

Shope*  him  to  go  and  dwell  a  year  or  twain  *prepared,  arranged 

In  Engleland,  that  call'd  was  eke  Britain, 

To  seek  in  armes  worship  and  honour 

(For  all  his  lust*  he  set  in  such  labour);  *pleasure 

And  dwelled  there  two  years;  the  book  saith  thus. 


Now  will  I  stint*  of  this  Arviragus,  *cease  speaking 

And  speak  I  will  of  Dorigen  his  wife. 

That  lov'd  her  husband  as  her  hearte's  life. 

For  his  absence  weepeth  she  and  siketh,*  *sigheth 

As  do  these  noble  wives  when  them  liketh; 

She  mourneth,  waketh,  waileth,  fasteth,  plaineth; 

Desire  of  his  presence  her  so  distraineth. 

That  all  this  wide  world  she  set  at  nought. 

Her  friendes,  which  that  knew  her  heavy  thought, 

Comforte  her  in  all  that  ever  they  may; 


356 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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357 


They  preache  her,  they  tell  her  night  and  day, 

That  causeless  she  slays  herself,  alas! 

And  every  comfort  possible  in  this  case 

They  do  to  her,  with  all  their  business,*  *assiduity 

And  all  to  make  her  leave  her  heaviness. 

By  process,  as  ye  knowen  every  one. 

Men  may  so  longe  graven  in  a  stone. 

Till  some  figure  therein  imprinted  be: 

So  long  have  they  comforted  her,  till  she 

Received  hath,  by  hope  and  by  reason, 

Th'  imprinting  of  their  consolation. 

Through  which  her  greate  sorrow  gan  assuage; 

She  may  not  always  duren  in  such  rage. 

And  eke  Arviragus,  in  all  this  care. 

Hath  sent  his  letters  home  of  his  welfare. 

And  that  he  will  come  hastily  again. 

Or  elles  had  this  sorrow  her  hearty-slain. 

Her  friendes  saw  her  sorrow  gin  to  slake,*  *slacken,  diminish 

And  prayed  her  on  knees  for  Godde's  sake 

To  come  and  roamen  in  their  company. 

Away  to  drive  her  darke  fantasy; 

And  finally  she  granted  that  request. 

For  well  she  saw  that  it  was  for  the  best. 

Now  stood  her  castle  faste  by  the  sea. 

And  often  with  her  friendes  walked  she. 

Her  to  disport  upon  the  bank  on  high. 

There  as  many  a  ship  and  barge  sigh,*  *saw 

Sailing  their  courses,  where  them  list  to  go. 

But  then  was  that  a  parcel*  of  her  woe,  *part 

For  to  herself  full  oft,  "Alas!"  said  she. 

Is  there  no  ship,  of  so  many  as  I  see. 

Will  bringe  home  my  lord?  then  were  my  heart 

All  warish'd*  of  this  bitter  paine's  smart."  *cured  <6> 


Another  time  would  she  sit  and  think. 
And  cast  her  eyen  downward  from  the  brink; 
But  when  she  saw  the  grisly  rockes  blake,* 
For  very  fear  so  would  her  hearte  quake. 
That  on  her  feet  she  might  her  not  sustene* 
Then  would  she  sit  adown  upon  the  green. 
And  piteously  *into  the  sea  behold,* 
And  say  right  thus,  with  *careful  sikes*  cold: 
"Eternal  God!  that  through  thy  purveyance 
Leadest  this  world  by  certain  governance, 
*In  idle,*  as  men  say,  ye  nothing  make; 
But,  Lord,  these  grisly  fiendly  rockes  blake. 
That  seem  rather  a  foul  confusion 
Of  work,  than  any  fair  creation 
Of  such  a  perfect  wise  God  and  stable. 
Why  have  ye  wrought  this  work  unreasonable? 
For  by  this  work,  north,  south,  or  west,  or  east. 
There  is  not  foster'd  man,  nor  bird,  nor  beast: 
It  doth  no  good,  to  my  wit,  but  *annoyeth.* 
See  ye  not.  Lord,  how  mankind  it  destroyeth? 
A  hundred  thousand  bodies  of  mankind 
Have  rockes  slain,  *all  be  they  not  in  mind;* 
Which  mankind  is  so  fair  part  of  thy  work. 
Thou  madest  it  like  to  thine  owen  mark.* 
Then  seemed  it  ye  had  a  great  cherte* 
Toward  mankind;  but  how  then  may  it  be 
That  ye  such  meanes  make  it  to  destroy? 
Which  meanes  do  no  good,  but  ever  annoy. 
I  wot  well,  clerkes  will  say  as  them  lest,* 
By  arguments,  that  all  is  for  the  best. 
Although  I  can  the  causes  not  y-know; 
But  thilke*  God  that  made  the  wind  to  blow. 
As  keep  my  lord,  this  is  my  conclusion: 
To  clerks  leave  I  all  disputation: 


*black 


sustam 


look  out  on  the  sea* 
*painful  sighs* 


=idlyi 


*works  mischieP  <7> 


*though  they  are 
forgotten* 
*image 
*love,  affection 


*please 


*that 


358 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


But  would  to  God  that  all  these  rockes  blake 
Were  sunken  into  helle  for  his  sake 
These  rockes  slay  mine  hearte  for  the  fear." 
Thus  would  she  say,  with  many  a  piteous  tear. 


Her  friendes  saw  that  it  was  no  disport 

To  roame  by  the  sea,  but  discomfort. 

And  shope*  them  for  to  playe  somewhere  else.  *arranged 

They  leade  her  by  rivers  and  by  wells. 

And  eke  in  other  places  delectables; 

They  dancen,  and  they  play  at  chess  and  tables.*  *backgammon 

So  on  a  day,  right  in  the  morning-tide. 

Unto  a  garden  that  was  there  beside. 

In  which  that  they  had  made  their  ordinance*     *provision,  arrangement 

Of  victual,  and  of  other  purveyance. 

They  go  and  play  them  all  the  longe  day: 

And  this  was  on  the  sixth  morrow  of  May, 

Which  May  had  painted  with  his  softe  showers 

This  garden  full  of  leaves  and  of  flowers: 

And  craft  of  manne's  hand  so  curiously 

Arrayed  had  this  garden  truely. 

That  never  was  there  garden  of  such  price,*  *value,  praise 

*But  iP  it  were  the  very  Paradise.  *unless* 

Th'odour  of  flowers,  and  the  freshe  sight. 

Would  have  maked  any  hearte  light 

That  e'er  was  born,  *but  iP  too  great  sickness  *unless* 

Or  too  great  sorrow  held  it  in  distress; 

So  full  it  was  of  beauty  and  pleasance. 

And  after  dinner  they  began  to  dance 

And  sing  also,  save  Dorigen  alone 

Who  made  alway  her  complaint  and  her  moan. 

For  she  saw  not  him  on  the  dance  go 

That  was  her  husband,  and  her  love  also; 

But  natheless  she  must  a  time  abide 


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359 


And  with  good  hope  let  her  sorrow  slide. 


*esteem,  value 


*unknown  to* 


Upon  this  dance,  amonge  other  men. 

Danced  a  squier  before  Dorigen 

That  fresher  was,  and  jollier  of  array 

*As  to  my  doom,*  than  is  the  month  of  May.  *in  my  judgment* 

He  sang  and  danced,  passing  any  man. 

That  is  or  was  since  that  the  world  began; 

Therewith  he  was,  if  men  should  him  descrive. 

One  of  the  *beste  faring*  men  alive,  *most  accomplished* 

Young,  strong,  and  virtuous,  and  rich,  and  wise. 

And  well  beloved,  and  holden  in  great  price.* 

And,  shortly  if  the  sooth  I  telle  shall, 

*Unweeting  oP  this  Dorigen  at  all. 

This  lusty  squier,  servant  to  Venus, 

Which  that  y-called  was  Aurelius, 

Had  lov'd  her  best  of  any  creature 

Two  year  and  more,  as  was  his  aventure;*  *fortune 

But  never  durst  he  tell  her  his  grievance; 

Withoute  cup  he  drank  all  his  penance. 

He  was  despaired,  nothing  durst  he  say. 

Save  in  his  songes  somewhat  would  he  wray*  *betray 

His  woe,  as  in  a  general  complaining; 

He  said,  he  lov'd,  and  was  belov'd  nothing. 

Of  suche  matter  made  he  many  lays, 

Songes,  complaintes,  roundels,  virelays  <8> 

How  that  he  durste  not  his  sorrow  tell. 

But  languished,  as  doth  a  Fury  in  hell; 

And  die  he  must,  he  said,  as  did  Echo 

For  Narcissus,  that  durst  not  tell  her  woe. 

In  other  manner  than  ye  hear  me  say. 

He  durste  not  to  her  his  woe  bewray. 

Save  that  paraventure  sometimes  at  dances. 

Where  younge  folke  keep  their  observances. 


360 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


It  may  well  be  he  looked  on  her  face 

In  such  a  wise,  as  man  that  asketh  grace, 

But  nothing  wiste  she  of  his  intent. 

Nath'less  it  happen'd,  ere  they  thennes*  went,         *thence  (from  the 

Because  that  he  was  her  neighebour,  garden)* 

And  was  a  man  of  worship  and  honour. 

And  she  had  knowen  him  *of  time  yore,*  *for  a  long  time* 

They  fell  in  speech,  and  forth  aye  more  and  more 

Unto  his  purpose  drew  Aurelius; 

And  when  he  saw  his  time,  he  saide  thus: 

Madam,"  quoth  he,  "by  God  that  this  world  made. 

So  that  I  wist  it  might  your  hearte  glade,*  *gladden 

I  would,  that  day  that  your  Arviragus 

Went  over  sea,  that  I,  Aurelius, 

Had  gone  where  I  should  never  come  again; 

For  well  I  wot  my  service  is  in  vain. 

My  guerdon*  is  but  bursting  of  mine  heart.  *reward 

Madame,  rue  upon  my  paine's  smart. 

For  with  a  word  ye  may  me  slay  or  save. 

Here  at  your  feet  God  would  that  I  were  grave. 

I  have  now  no  leisure  more  to  say: 

Have  mercy,  sweet,  or  you  will  *do  me  dey."*  *cause  me  to  die* 


She  gan  to  look  upon  Aurelius; 

"Is  this  your  will,"  quoth  she,  "and  say  ye  thus? 

Ne'er  erst,"*  quoth  she,  "I  wiste  what  ye  meant: 

But  now,  Aurelius,  I  know  your  intent. 

By  thilke*  God  that  gave  me  soul  and  life. 

Never  shall  I  be  an  untrue  wife 

In  word  nor  work,  as  far  as  I  have  wit; 

I  will  be  his  to  whom  that  I  am  knit; 

Take  this  for  fmal  answer  as  of  me." 

But  after  that  *in  play*  thus  saide  she. 

"Aurelius,"  quoth  she,  "by  high  God  above. 


*before 


*that 


'playfully,  in  jest* 


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Yet  will  I  grante  you  to  be  your  love 
(Since  I  you  see  so  piteously  complain); 
Looke,  what  day  that  endelong*  Bretagne 
Ye  remove  all  the  rockes,  stone  by  stone. 
That  they  not  lette*  ship  nor  boat  to  gon, 
I  say,  when  ye  have  made  this  coast  so  clean 
Of  rockes,  that  there  is  no  stone  seen. 
Then  will  I  love  you  best  of  any  man; 
Have  here  my  troth,  in  all  that  ever  I  can; 
For  well  I  wot  that  it  shall  ne'er  betide. 
Let  such  folly  out  of  your  hearte  glide. 
What  dainty*  should  a  man  have  in  his  life 
For  to  go  love  another  manne's  wife. 
That  hath  her  body  when  that  ever  him  liketh?" 
Aurelius  full  often  sore  siketh;* 
Is  there  none  other  grace  in  you?"  quoth  he, 
"No,  by  that  Lord,"  quoth  she,  "that  maked  me. 
Woe  was  Aurelius  when  that  he  this  heard. 
And  with  a  sorrowful  heart  he  thus  answer 'd. 
"Madame,  quoth  he,  "this  were  an  impossible. 
Then  must  I  die  of  sudden  death  horrible." 
And  with  that  word  he  turned  him  anon. 


361 


*from  end  to  end  of 


prevent 


*value,  pleasure 


*sigheth 


Then  came  her  other  friends  many  a  one. 

And  in  the  alleys  roamed  up  and  down. 

And  nothing  wist  of  this  conclusion. 

But  suddenly  began  to  revel  new. 

Till  that  the  brighte  sun  had  lost  his  hue. 

For  th'  horizon  had  reft  the  sun  his  light 

(This  is  as  much  to  say  as  it  was  night); 

And  home  they  go  in  mirth  and  in  solace; 

Save  only  wretch'd  Aurelius,  alas 

He  to  his  house  is  gone  with  sorrowful  heart. 

He  said,  he  may  not  from  his  death  astart.* 


escape 


362 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Him  seemed,  that  he  felt  his  hearte  cold. 

Up  to  the  heav'n  his  handes  gan  he  hold, 

And  on  his  knees  bare  he  set  him  down. 

And  in  his  raving  said  his  orisoun.* 

For  very  woe  out  of  his  wit  he  braid;* 

He  wist  not  what  he  spake,  but  thus  he  said; 

With  piteous  heart  his  plaint  hath  he  begun 

Unto  the  gods,  and  first  unto  the  Sun. 

He  said;  "Apollo  God  and  governour 

Of  every  plante,  herbe,  tree,  and  flower. 

That  giv  St,  after  thy  declination. 

To  each  of  them  his  time  and  his  season. 

As  thine  herberow*  changeth  low  and  high; 

Lord  Phoebus:  cast  thy  merciable  eye 

On  wretched  Aurelius,  which  that  am  but  lorn.* 

Lo,  lord,  my  lady  hath  my  death  y-sworn, 

Withoute  guilt,  but*  thy  benignity 

Upon  my  deadly  heart  have  some  pity. 

For  well  I  wot.  Lord  Phoebus,  if  you  lest,* 

Ye  may  me  helpe,  save  my  lady,  best. 

Now  vouchsafe,  that  I  may  you  devise* 

How  that  I  may  be  holp,*  and  in  what  wise. 

Your  blissful  sister,  Lucina  the  sheen,  <9> 

That  of  the  sea  is  chief  goddess  and  queen,  — 

Though  Neptunus  have  deity  in  the  sea. 

Yet  emperess  above  him  is  she;  — 

Ye  know  well,  lord,  that,  right  as  her  desire 

Is  to  be  quick'd*  and  lighted  of  your  fire. 

For  which  she  followeth  you  full  busily. 

Right  so  the  sea  desireth  naturally 

To  follow  her,  as  she  that  is  goddess 

Both  in  the  sea  and  rivers  more  and  less. 

Wherefore,  Lord  Phoebus,  this  is  my  request. 

Do  this  miracle,  or  *do  mine  hearte  brest;* 


prayer 
*wandered 


*dwelling,  situation 

*undone 

*unless 

*please 

*tell,  explain 
*helped 


*quickened 


*cause  my  heart 


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363 


That  flow,  next  at  this  opposition. 

Which  in  the  sign  shall  be  of  the  Lion, 

As  praye  her  so  great  a  flood  to  bring. 

That  five  fathom  at  least  it  overspring 

The  highest  rock  in  Armoric  Bretagne, 

And  let  this  flood  endure  yeares  twain: 

Then  certes  to  my  lady  may  I  say, 

"Holde  your  best,"  the  rockes  be  away. 

Lord  Phoebus,  this  miracle  do  for  me. 

Pray  her  she  go  no  faster  course  than  ye; 

I  say  this,  pray  your  sister  that  she  go 

No  faster  course  than  ye  these  yeares  two: 

Then  shall  she  be  even  at  full  alway. 

And  spring-flood  laste  bothe  night  and  day. 

And  *but  she*  vouchesafe  in  such  mannere 

To  grante  me  my  sov'reign  lady  dear. 

Pray  her  to  sink  every  rock  adown 

Into  her  owen  darke  regioun 

Under  the  ground,  where  Pluto  dwelleth  in 

Or  nevermore  shall  I  my  lady  win. 

Thy  temple  in  Delphos  will  I  barefoot  seek. 

Lord  Phoebus!  see  the  teares  on  my  cheek 

And  on  my  pain  have  some  compassioun." 

And  with  that  word  in  sorrow  he  fell  down. 

And  longe  time  he  lay  forth  in  a  trance. 

His  brother,  which  that  knew  of  his  penance,* 

Up  caught  him,  and  to  bed  he  hath  him  brought. 

Despaired  in  this  torment  and  this  thought 

Let  I  this  woeful  creature  lie; 

Choose  he  for  me  whe'er*  he  will  live  or  die. 


to  burst* 


ifshedonot* 


*distress 


*whether 


Arviragus  with  health  and  great  honour 
(As  he  that  was  of  chivalry  the  flow'r) 
Is  come  home,  and  other  worthy  men. 


364 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Oh,  blissful  art  thou  now,  thou  Dorigen! 

Thou  hast  thy  lusty  husband  in  thine  arms. 

The  freshe  knight,  the  worthy  man  of  arms. 

That  loveth  thee  as  his  own  hearte's  life: 

*Nothing  list  him  to  be  imaginatiP  *he  cared  not  to  fancy* 

If  any  wight  had  spoke,  while  he  was  out. 

To  her  of  love;  he  had  of  that  no  doubt;*  *fear,  suspicion 

He  not  intended*  to  no  such  mattere,  *occupied  himself  with 

But  danced,  jousted,  and  made  merry  cheer. 

And  thus  in  joy  and  bliss  I  let  them  dwell. 

And  of  the  sick  Aurelius  will  I  tell 

In  languor  and  in  torment  furious 

Two  year  and  more  lay  wretch'd  Aurelius, 

Ere  any  foot  on  earth  he  mighte  gon; 

Nor  comfort  in  this  time  had  he  none. 

Save  of  his  brother,  which  that  was  a  clerk.*  *scholar 

He  knew  of  all  this  woe  and  all  this  work; 

For  to  none  other  creature  certain 

Of  this  matter  he  durst  no  worde  sayn; 

Under  his  breast  he  bare  it  more  secree 

Than  e'er  did  Pamphilus  for  Galatee.<10> 

His  breast  was  whole  withoute  for  to  seen. 

But  in  his  heart  aye  was  the  arrow  keen. 

And  well  ye  know  that  of  a  sursanure  <  1 1  > 

In  surgery  is  perilous  the  cure. 

But*  men  might  touch  the  arrow  or  come  thereby.  *except 

His  brother  wept  and  wailed  privily. 

Till  at  the  last  him  fell  in  remembrance. 

That  while  he  was  at  Orleans  <  12>  in  France,  — 

As  younge  clerkes,  that  be  likerous*  —  *eager 

To  readen  artes  that  be  curious, 

Seeken  in  every  *halk  and  every  hern*  *nook  and  corner*  <  13  > 

Particular  sciences  for  to  learn, — 

He  him  remember'd,  that  upon  a  day 


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365 


At  Orleans  in  study  a  book  he  say*  *saw 

Of  magic  natural,  which  his  fellaw. 

That  was  that  time  a  bachelor  of  law 

All*  were  he  there  to  learn  another  craft,  *though 

Had  privily  upon  his  desky-laft; 

Which  book  spake  much  of  operations 

Touching  the  eight  and-twenty  mansions 

That  longe  to  the  Moon,  and  such  folly 

As  in  our  dayes  is  not  worth  a  fly; 

For  holy  church's  faith,  in  our  believe,*  *belief,  creed 

Us  suff 'reth  none  illusion  to  grieve. 

And  when  this  book  was  in  his  remembrance 

Anon  for  joy  his  heart  began  to  dance. 

And  to  himself  he  saide  privily; 

"My  brother  shall  be  warish'd*  hastily  *cured 

For  I  am  sicker*  that  there  be  sciences,  *certain 

By  which  men  make  divers  apparences. 

Such  as  these  subtle  tregetoures  play.  *tricksters  <14> 

For  oft  at  feaste's  have  I  well  heard  say. 

That  tregetours,  within  a  halle  large. 

Have  made  come  in  a  water  and  a  barge. 

And  in  the  halle  rowen  up  and  down. 

Sometimes  hath  seemed  come  a  grim  lioun. 

And  sometimes  flowers  spring  as  in  a  mead; 

Sometimes  a  vine,  and  grapes  white  and  red; 

Sometimes  a  castle  all  of  lime  and  stone; 

And,  when  them  liked,  voided*  it  anon:  *vanished 

Thus  seemed  it  to  every  manne's  sight. 

Now  then  conclude  I  thus;  if  that  I  might 

At  Orleans  some  olde  fellow  fmd. 

That  hath  these  Moone's  mansions  in  mind. 

Or  other  magic  natural  above. 

He  should  well  make  my  brother  have  his  love. 

For  with  an  appearance  a  clerk*  may  make,  *learned  man 


366 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


To  manne's  sight,  that  all  the  rockes  blake 
Of  Bretagne  were  voided*  every  one, 
And  shippes  by  the  brinke  come  and  gon. 
And  in  such  form  endure  a  day  or  two; 
Then  were  my  brother  warish'd*  of  his  woe. 
Then  must  she  needes  *holde  her  behest,* 
Or  elles  he  shall  shame  her  at  the  least." 
Why  should  I  make  a  longer  tale  of  this? 
Unto  his  brother's  bed  he  comen  is. 
And  such  comfort  he  gave  him,  for  to  gon 
To  Orleans,  that  he  upstart  anon. 
And  on  his  way  forth-ward  then  is  he  fare,* 
In  hope  for  to  be  lissed*  of  his  care. 


*removed 


*cured 
*keep  her  promise* 


gone 
*eased  of  <15> 


When  they  were  come  almost  to  that  city, 

*But  if  it  were*  a  two  furlong  or  three,  *all  but* 

A  young  clerk  roaming  by  himself  they  met. 

Which  that  in  Latin  *thriftily  them  gret.*  *greeted  them 

And  after  that  he  said  a  wondrous  thing;  civilly* 

I  know,"  quoth  he,  "the  cause  of  your  coming;" 

Aud  ere  they  farther  any  foote  went. 

He  told  them  all  that  was  in  their  intent. 

The  Breton  clerk  him  asked  of  fellaws 

The  which  he  hadde  known  in  olde  daws,*  *days 

And  he  answer'd  him  that  they  deade  were. 

For  which  he  wept  full  often  many  a  tear. 

Down  off  his  horse  Aurelius  light  anon. 

And  forth  with  this  magician  is  be  gone 

Home  to  his  house,  and  made  him  well  at  ease; 

Them  lacked  no  vitail*  that  might  them  please.  *victuals,  food 

So  well-array 'd  a  house  as  there  was  one, 

Aurelius  in  his  life  saw  never  none. 

He  shewed  him,  ere  they  went  to  suppere, 

Forestes,  parkes,  full  of  wilde  deer. 


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There  saw  he  hartes  with  their  homes  high. 

The  greatest  that  were  ever  seen  with  eye. 

He  saw  of  them  an  hundred  slain  with  hounds. 

And  some  with  arrows  bleed  of  bitter  wounds. 

He  saw,  when  voided*  were  the  wilde  deer,  *passed  away 

These  falconers  upon  a  fair  rivere. 

That  with  their  hawkes  have  the  heron  slain. 

Then  saw  he  knightes  jousting  in  a  plain. 

And  after  this  he  did  him  such  pleasance. 

That  he  him  shew'd  his  lady  on  a  dance. 

In  which  himselfe  danced,  as  him  thought. 

And  when  this  master,  that  this  magic  wrought. 

Saw  it  was  time,  he  clapp'd  his  handes  two. 

And  farewell,  all  the  revel  is  y-go.*  *gone,  removed 

And  yet  remov'd  they  never  out  of  the  house. 

While  they  saw  all  the  sightes  marvellous; 

But  in  his  study,  where  his  bookes  be. 

They  satte  still,  and  no  wight  but  they  three. 

To  him  this  master  called  his  squier. 


367 


And  said  him  thus,  "May  we  go  to  supper? 

Almost  an  hour  it  is,  I  undertake. 

Since  I  you  bade  our  supper  for  to  make. 

When  that  these  worthy  men  wente  with  me 

Into  my  study,  where  my  bookes  be." 

"Sir,"  quoth  this  squier,  "when  it  liketh  you. 

It  is  all  ready,  though  ye  will  right  now." 

"Go  we  then  sup,"  quoth  he,  "as  for  the  best; 

These  amorous  folk  some  time  must  have  rest." 

At  after  supper  fell  they  in  treaty 

What  summe  should  this  master's  guerdon*  be. 

To  remove  all  the  rockes  of  Bretagne, 

And  eke  from  Gironde  <16>  to  the  mouth  of  Seine. 

He  made  it  strange,*  and  swore,  so  God  him  save. 


*reward 


*a  matter  of 


368 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Less  than  a  thousand  pound  he  would  not  have,  difficulty* 

*Nor  gladly  for  that  sum  he  would  not  gon.*  *see  note  <  17>* 

Aurelius  with  blissful  heart  anon 

Answered  thus;  "Fie  on  a  thousand  pound! 

This  wide  world,  which  that  men  say  is  round, 

I  would  it  give,  if  I  were  lord  of  it. 

This  bargain  is  full-driv'n,  for  we  be  knit;*  *agreed 

Ye  shall  be  payed  truly  by  my  troth. 

But  looke,  for  no  negligence  or  sloth. 

Ye  tarry  us  here  no  longer  than  to-morrow." 

"Nay,"  quoth  the  clerk,  *"have  here  my  faith  to  borrow"*    *I  pledge  my 

To  bed  is  gone  Aurelius  when  him  lest,  faith  on  it* 

And  well-nigh  all  that  night  he  had  his  rest. 

What  for  his  labour,  and  his  hope  of  bliss. 

His  woeful  heart  *of  penance  had  a  liss.*  *had  a  respite 

from  suffering* 
Upon  the  morrow,  when  that  it  was  day. 
Unto  Bretagne  they  took  the  righte  way, 
Aurelius  and  this  magician  beside. 
And  be  descended  where  they  would  abide: 
And  this  was,  as  the  bookes  me  remember. 
The  colde  frosty  season  of  December. 

Phoebus  wax'd  old,  and  hued  like  latoun,*  *brass 

That  in  his  bote  declinatioun 

Shone  as  the  burned  gold,  with  streames*  bright;  *beams 

But  now  in  Capricorn  adown  he  light. 
Where  as  he  shone  full  pale,  I  dare  well  sayn. 
The  bitter  frostes,  with  the  sleet  and  rain. 

Destroyed  have  the  green  in  every  yard.  *courtyard,  garden 

Janus  sits  by  the  fire  with  double  beard. 
And  drinketh  of  his  bugle  horn  the  wine: 
Before  him  stands  the  brawn  of  tusked  swine 
And  "nowel"*  crieth  every  lusty  man  *Noel  <  18> 

Aurelius,  in  all  that  ev'r  he  can. 


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369 


Did  to  his  master  cheer  and  reverence. 

And  prayed  him  to  do  his  diligence 

To  bringe  him  out  of  his  paines  smart. 

Or  with  a  sword  that  he  would  slit  his  heart. 

This  subtle  clerk  such  ruth*  had  on  this  man,  *pity 

That  night  and  day  he  sped  him,  that  he  can. 

To  wait  a  time  of  his  conclusion; 

This  is  to  say,  to  make  illusion. 

By  such  an  appearance  of  jugglery 

(I  know  no  termes  of  astrology). 

That  she  and  every  wight  should  ween  and  say. 

That  of  Bretagne  the  rockes  were  away. 

Or  else  they  were  sunken  under  ground. 

So  at  the  last  he  hath  a  time  found 

To  make  his  japes*  and  his  wretchedness  *tricks 

Of  such  a  *superstitious  cursedness.*  *detestable  villainy* 

His  tables  Toletanes  <  19>  forth  he  brought. 

Full  well  corrected,  that  there  lacked  nought. 

Neither  his  collect,  nor  his  expanse  years. 

Neither  his  rootes,  nor  his  other  gears. 

As  be  his  centres,  and  his  arguments. 

And  his  proportional  convenients 

For  his  equations  in  everything. 

And  by  his  eighte  spheres  in  his  working. 

He  knew  full  well  how  far  Alnath  <20>  was  shove 

From  the  head  of  that  fix'd  Aries  above. 

That  in  the  ninthe  sphere  consider'd  is. 

Full  subtilly  he  calcul'd  all  this. 

When  he  had  found  his  firste  mansion. 

He  knew  the  remnant  by  proportion; 

And  knew  the  rising  of  his  moone  well. 

And  in  whose  face,  and  term,  and  every  deal; 

And  knew  full  well  the  moone's  mansion 

Accordant  to  his  operation; 


370 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  knew  also  his  other  observances, 

For  such  illusions  and  such  meschances,* 

As  heathen  folk  used  in  thilke  days. 

For  which  no  longer  made  he  delays; 

But  through  his  magic,  for  a  day  or  tway,  <21> 

It  seemed  all  the  rockes  were  away 


*wicked  devices 


Aurelius,  which  yet  despaired  is 

Whe'er*  he  shall  have  his  love,  or  fare  amiss. 

Awaited  night  and  day  on  this  miracle: 

And  when  he  knew  that  there  was  none  obstacle. 

That  voided*  were  these  rockes  every  one, 

Down  at  his  master's  feet  he  fell  anon. 

And  said;  "I,  woeful  wretch'd  Aurelius, 

Thank  you,  my  Lord,  and  lady  mine  Venus, 

That  me  have  holpen  from  my  cares  cold." 

And  to  the  temple  his  way  forth  hath  he  hold. 

Where  as  he  knew  he  should  his  lady  see. 

And  when  he  saw  his  time,  anon  right  he 

With  dreadful*  heart  and  with  full  humble  cheer 

Saluteth  hath  his  sovereign  lady  dear. 

"My  rightful  Lady,"  quoth  this  woeful  man, 

"Whom  I  most  dread,  and  love  as  I  best  can. 

And  lothest  were  of  all  this  world  displease, 

Were't  not  that  I  for  you  have  such  disease,* 

That  I  must  die  here  at  your  foot  anon. 

Nought  would  I  tell  how  me  is  woebegone. 

But  certes  either  must  I  die  or  plain;* 

Ye  slay  me  guilteless  for  very  pain. 

But  of  my  death  though  that  ye  have  no  ruth. 

Advise  you,  ere  that  ye  break  your  truth: 

Repente  you,  for  thilke  God  above. 

Ere  ye  me  slay  because  that  I  you  love. 

For,  Madame,  well  ye  wot  what  ye  have  hight; 


*whether 


*removed 


*fearful  **mien 


distress,  affliction 


*bewail 


*promised 


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Not  that  I  challenge  anything  of  right 

Of  you,  my  sovereign  lady,  but  of  grace: 

But  in  a  garden  yond',  in  such  a  place. 

Ye  wot  right  well  what  ye  behighte*  me,  *promised 

And  in  mine  hand  your  trothe  plighted  ye. 

To  love  me  best;  God  wot  ye  saide  so. 

Albeit  that  I  unworthy  am  thereto; 

Madame,  I  speak  it  for  th'  honour  of  you. 

More  than  to  save  my  hearte's  life  right  now; 

I  have  done  so  as  ye  commanded  me. 

And  if  ye  vouchesafe,  ye  may  go  see. 

Do  as  you  list,  have  your  behest  in  mind. 

For,  quick  or  dead,  right  there  ye  shall  me  fmd; 

In  you  hes  all  to  *do  me  live  or  dey;*  *cause  me  to 

But  well  I  wot  the  rockes  be  away."  live  or  die* 


371 


He  took  his  leave,  and  she  astonish'd  stood; 

In  all  her  face  was  not  one  drop  of  blood: 

She  never  ween'd  t'have  come  in  such  a  trap. 

"Alas!"  quoth  she,  "that  ever  this  should  hap! 

For  ween'd  I  ne'er,  by  possibility. 

That  such  a  monster  or  marvail  might  be; 

It  is  against  the  process  of  nature." 

And  home  she  went  a  sorrowful  creature; 

For  very  fear  unnethes*  may  she  go.  *scarcely 

She  weeped,  wailed,  all  a  day  or  two. 

And  swooned,  that  it  ruthe  was  to  see: 

But  why  it  was,  to  no  wight  tolde  she. 

For  out  of  town  was  gone  Arviragus. 

But  to  herself  she  spake,  and  saide  thus. 

With  face  pale,  and  full  sorrowful  cheer. 

In  her  complaint,  as  ye  shall  after  hear. 

"Alas!"  quoth  she,  "on  thee.  Fortune,  I  plain,*  *complain 

That  unware  hast  me  wrapped  in  thy  chain. 


372 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


From  which  to  scape,  wot  I  no  succour, 

Save  only  death,  or  elles  dishonour; 

One  of  these  two  behoveth  me  to  choose. 

But  natheless,  yet  had  I  lever*  lose  *sooner,  rather 

My  life,  than  of  my  body  have  shame. 

Or  know  myselfe  false,  or  lose  my  name; 

And  with  my  death  *I  may  be  quit  y-wis.*       *I  may  certainly  purchase 

Hath  there  not  many  a  noble  wife,  ere  this,  my  exemption* 

And  many  a  maiden,  slain  herself,  alas! 

Rather  than  with  her  body  do  trespass? 

Yes,  certes;  lo,  these  stories  bear  witness.  <22> 

When  thirty  tyrants  full  of  cursedness*  *wickedness 

Had  slain  Phidon  in  Athens  at  the  feast. 

They  commanded  his  daughters  to  arrest. 

And  bringe  them  before  them,  in  despite. 

All  naked,  to  fulfd  their  foul  delight; 

And  in  their  father's  blood  they  made  them  dance 

Upon  the  pavement,  —  God  give  them  mischance. 

For  which  these  woeful  maidens,  full  of  dread. 

Rather  than  they  would  lose  their  maidenhead. 

They  privily  *be  start*  into  a  well,  *suddenly  leaped 

And  drowned  themselves,  as  the  bookes  tell. 

They  of  Messene  let  inquire  and  seek 

Of  Lacedaemon  fifty  maidens  eke. 

On  which  they  woulde  do  their  lechery: 

But  there  was  none  of  all  that  company 

That  was  not  slain,  and  with  a  glad  intent 

Chose  rather  for  to  die,  than  to  assent 

To  be  oppressed*  of  her  maidenhead.  *forcibly  bereft 

Why  should  I  then  to  dien  be  in  dread? 

Lo,  eke  the  tyrant  Aristoclides, 

That  lov'd  a  maiden  hight  Stimphalides, 

When  that  her  father  slain  was  on  a  night. 

Unto  Diana's  temple  went  she  right. 


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373 


And  hent*  the  image  in  her  handes  two. 
From  which  image  she  woulde  never  go; 
No  wight  her  handes  might  off  it  arace,* 
Till  she  was  slain  right  in  the  selfe*  place. 
Now  since  that  maidens  hadde  such  despite 
To  be  defouled  with  man's  foul  delight. 
Well  ought  a  wife  rather  herself  to  sle,* 
Than  be  defouled,  as  it  thinketh  me. 
What  shall  I  say  of  Hasdrubale's  wife. 
That  at  Carthage  bereft  herself  of  life? 
For,  when  she  saw  the  Romans  win  the  town. 
She  took  her  children  all,  and  skipt  adown 
Into  the  fire,  and  rather  chose  to  die. 
Than  any  Roman  did  her  villainy. 
Hath  not  Lucretia  slain  herself,  alas! 
At  Rome,  when  that  she  oppressed*  was 
Of  Tarquin?  for  her  thought  it  was  a  shame 
To  live,  when  she  hadde  lost  her  name. 
The  seven  maidens  of  Milesie  also 
Have  slain  themselves  for  very  dread  and  woe. 
Rather  than  folk  of  Gaul  them  should  oppress. 
More  than  a  thousand  stories,  as  I  guess. 
Could  I  now  tell  as  touching  this  mattere. 
When  Abradate  was  slain,  his  wife  so  dear  <23> 
Herselfe  slew,  and  let  her  blood  to  glide 
In  Abradate's  woundes,  deep  and  wide. 
And  said,  'My  body  at  the  leaste  way 
There  shall  no  wight  defoul,  if  that  I  may' 
Why  should  I  more  examples  hereof  sayn? 
Since  that  so  many  have  themselves  slain. 
Well  rather  than  they  would  defouled  be, 
I  will  conclude  that  it  is  bet*  for  me 
To  slay  myself,  than  be  defouled  thus. 
I  will  be  true  unto  Arviragus, 


*caught,  clasped 

*pluck  away  by  force 
*same 


*slay 


*ravished 


*better 


374 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Or  elles  slay  myself  in  some  mannere, 

As  did  Demotione's  daughter  dear, 

Because  she  woulde  not  defouled  be. 

O  Sedasus,  it  is  full  great  pity 

To  reade  how  thy  daughters  died,  alas! 

That  slew  themselves  *for  suche  manner  cas.* 

As  great  a  pity  was  it,  or  well  more, 

TheTheban  maiden,  that  for  Nicanor 

Herselfe  slew,  right  for  such  manner  woe. 

Another  Theban  maiden  did  right  so; 

For  one  of  Macedon  had  her  oppress'd. 

She  with  her  death  her  maidenhead  redress'd.* 

What  shall  I  say  of  Niceratus'  wife. 

That  for  such  case  bereft  herself  her  life? 

How  true  was  eke  to  Alcibiades 

His  love,  that  for  to  dien  rather  chese,* 

Than  for  to  suffer  his  body  unburied  be? 

Lo,  what  a  wife  was  Alceste?"  quoth  she. 

"What  saith  Homer  of  good  Penelope? 

All  Greece  knoweth  of  her  chastity. 

Pardie,  of  Laedamia  is  written  thus. 

That  when  at  Troy  was  slain  Protesilaus,  <24> 

No  longer  would  she  live  after  his  day. 

The  same  of  noble  Porcia  tell  I  may; 

Withoute  Brutus  coulde  she  not  live. 

To  whom  she  did  all  whole  her  hearte  give.  <25> 

The  perfect  wifehood  of  Artemisie  <26> 

Honoured  is  throughout  all  Barbaric. 

OTeuta  <27>  queen,  thy  wifely  chastity 

To  alle  wives  may  a  mirror  be."  <28> 


*in  circumstances  of 
the  same  kind* 


Vindicated 


*chose 


Thus  plained  Dorigen  a  day  or  tway. 
Purposing  ever  that  she  woulde  dey;* 
But  natheless  upon  the  thirde  night 


*die 


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375 


Home  came  Arviragus,  the  worthy  knight. 

And  asked  her  why  that  she  wept  so  sore. 

And  she  gan  weepen  ever  longer  more. 

"Alas,"  quoth  she,  "that  ever  I  was  born! 

Thus  have  I  said,"  quoth  she;  "thus  have  I  sworn. 

And  told  him  all,  as  ye  have  heard  before: 

It  needeth  not  rehearse  it  you  no  more. 

This  husband  with  glad  cheer,*  in  friendly  wise. 

Answer 'd  and  said,  as  I  shall  you  devise.* 

"Is  there  aught  elles,  Dorigen,  but  this?" 

"Nay,  nay,"  quoth  she,  "God  help  me  so,  *as  wis* 

This  is  too  much,  an*  it  were  Godde's  will." 

"Yea,  wife,"  quoth  he,  "let  sleepe  what  is  still. 

It  may  be  well  par  Venture  yet  to-day. 

Ye  shall  your  trothe  holde,  by  my  fay. 

For,  God  so  wisly*  have  mercy  on  me, 

*I  had  well  lever  sticked  for  to  be,* 

For  very  love  which  I  to  you  have. 

But  if  ye  should  your  trothe  keep  and  save. 

Truth  is  the  highest  thing  that  man  may  keep." 

But  with  that  word  he  burst  anon  to  weep. 

And  said;  "I  you  forbid,  on  pain  of  death. 

That  never,  while  you  lasteth  life  or  breath. 

To  no  wight  tell  ye  this  misaventure; 

As  I  may  best,  I  will  my  woe  endure. 

Nor  make  no  countenance  of  heaviness. 

That  folk  of  you  may  deeme  harm,  or  guess." 

And  forth  he  call'd  a  squier  and  a  maid. 

"Go  forth  anon  with  Dorigen,"  he  said, 

"And  bringe  her  to  such  a  place  anon." 

They  take  their  leave,  and  on  their  way  they  gon: 

But  they  not  wiste  why  she  thither  went; 

He  would  to  no  wight  telle  his  intent. 


*demeanour 
*relate 

*assuredly* 
*if 


*certainly 
I  had  rather  be  slain* 


376 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


This  squier,  which  that  hight  Aurelius, 

On  Dorigen  that  was  so  amorous, 

Of  aventure  happened  her  to  meet 

Amid  the  town,  right  in  the  quickest*  street. 

As  she  was  bound*  to  go  the  way  forthright 

Toward  the  garden,  there  as  she  had  hight.* 

And  he  was  to  the  garden-ward  also; 

For  well  he  spied  when  she  woulde  go 

Out  of  her  house,  to  any  manner  place; 

But  thus  they  met,  of  aventure  or  grace. 

And  he  saluted  her  with  glad  intent. 

And  asked  of  her  whitherward  she  went. 

And  she  answered,  half  as  she  were  mad, 

"Unto  the  garden,  as  my  husband  bade. 

My  trothe  for  to  hold,  alas!  alas!" 

Aurelius  gan  to  wonder  on  this  case. 

And  in  his  heart  had  great  compassion 

Of  her,  and  of  her  lamentation. 

And  of  Arviragus,  the  worthy  knight. 

That  bade  her  hold  all  that  she  hadde  hight; 

So  loth  him  was  his  wife  should  break  her  truth* 

And  in  his  heart  he  caught  of  it  great  ruth,* 

Considering  the  best  on  every  side, 

*That  from  his  lust  yet  were  him  lever  abide,* 

Than  do  so  high  a  churlish  wretchedness* 

Against  franchise,*  and  alle  gentleness; 

For  which  in  fewe  words  he  saide  thus; 

"Madame,  say  to  your  lord  Arviragus, 

That  since  I  see  the  greate  gentleness 

Of  him,  and  eke  I  see  well  your  distress. 

That  him  were  lever*  have  shame  (and  that  were 

Than  ye  to  me  should  breake  thus  your  truth, 

I  had  well  lever  aye*  to  suffer  woe. 

Than  to  depart*  the  love  betwixt  you  two. 


nearest 

■"prepared,  going  <29> 

*promised 


*troth,  pledged  word 
*pity 

*seenote  <30>* 

*wickedness 
*generosity 


ruth)**    *rather  **pity 

*forever 
*sunder,  split  up 


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377 


I  you  release,  Madame,  into  your  bond. 

Quit  ev'ry  surement*  and  ev'ry  bond. 

That  ye  have  made  to  me  as  herebeforn. 

Since  thilke  time  that  ye  were  born. 

Have  here  my  truth,  I  shall  you  ne'er  repreve* 

*Of  no  behest;*  and  here  I  take  my  leave. 

As  of  the  truest  and  the  beste  wife 

That  ever  yet  I  knew  in  all  my  life. 

But  every  wife  beware  of  her  behest; 

On  Dorigen  remember  at  the  least. 

Thus  can  a  squier  do  a  gentle  deed. 

As  well  as  can  a  knight,  withoute  drede."* 


surety 


*reproach 
*of  no  (breach  of) 
promise* 


*doubt 


She  thanked  him  upon  her  knees  bare. 
And  home  unto  her  husband  is  she  fare,* 
And  told  him  all,  as  ye  have  hearde  said; 
And,  truste  me,  he  was  so  *well  apaid,* 
That  it  were  impossible  me  to  write. 
Why  should  I  longer  of  this  case  indite? 
Arviragus  and  Dorigen  his  wife 
In  sov'reign  blisse  ledde  forth  their  life; 
Ne'er  after  was  there  anger  them  between; 
He  cherish'd  her  as  though  she  were  a  queen. 
And  she  was  to  him  true  for  evermore; 
Of  these  two  folk  ye  get  of  me  no  more. 


gone 
*satisfied* 


Aurelius,  that  his  cost  had  *all  forlorn,*  *utterly  lost* 

Cursed  the  time  that  ever  he  was  born. 

"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "alas  that  I  behight*  *promised 

Of  pured*  gold  a  thousand  pound  of  weight  *refmed 

To  this  philosopher!  how  shall  I  do? 

I  see  no  more,  but  that  I  am  fordo.*  *ruined,  undone 

Mine  heritage  must  I  needes  sell. 

And  be  a  beggar;  here  I  will  not  dwell. 


378 


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379 


And  shamen  all  my  kindred  in  this  place, 

But*  I  of  him  may  gette  better  grace.  *unless 

But  natheless  I  will  of  him  assay 

At  certain  dayes  year  by  year  to  pay, 

And  thank  him  of  his  greate  courtesy 

My  trothe  will  I  keep,  I  will  not  he." 

With  hearte  sore  he  went  unto  his  coffer. 

And  broughte  gold  unto  this  philosopher. 

The  value  of  five  hundred  pound,  I  guess. 

And  him  beseeched,  of  his  gentleness. 

To  grant  him  *dayes  oP  the  remenant;  *time  to  pay  up* 

And  said;  "Master,  I  dare  well  make  avaunt, 

I  failed  never  of  my  truth  as  yet. 

For  sickerly  my  debte  shall  be  quit 

Towardes  you  how  so  that  e'er  I  fare 

To  go  a-begging  in  my  kirtle  bare: 

But  would  ye  vouchesafe,  upon  surety. 

Two  year,  or  three,  for  to  respite  me. 

Then  were  I  well,  for  elles  must  I  sell 

Mine  heritage;  there  is  no  more  to  tell." 

This  philosopher  soberly*  answer 'd,  *gravely 

And  saide  thus,  when  he  these  wordes  heard; 

"Have  I  not  holden  covenant  to  thee?" 

"Yes,  certes,  well  and  truely,"  quoth  he. 

"Hast  thou  not  had  thy  lady  as  thee  liked?" 

"No,  no,"  quoth  he,  and  sorrowfully  siked.* 

"What  was  the  cause?  tell  me  if  thou  can." 

Aurelius  his  tale  anon  began. 

And  told  him  all  as  ye  have  heard  before. 

It  needeth  not  to  you  rehearse  it  more. 

He  said,  "Arviragus  of  gentleness 

Had  lever*  die  in  sorrow  and  distress,  *rather 

Than  that  his  wife  were  of  her  trothe  false." 


*sighed 


*also 


The  sorrow  of  Dorigen  he  told  him  als',* 

How  loth  her  was  to  be  a  wicked  wife. 

And  that  she  lever  had  lost  that  day  her  life; 

And  that  her  troth  she  swore  through  innocence; 

She  ne'er  erst*  had  heard  speak  of  apparence**   *before  **see  note  <  3 1  > 

That  made  me  have  of  her  so  great  pity. 

And  right  as  freely  as  he  sent  her  to  me. 

As  freely  sent  I  her  to  him  again: 

This  is  all  and  some,  there  is  no  more  to  sayn." 

The  philosopher  answer 'd;  "Leve*  brother,  *dear 

Evereach  of  you  did  gently  to  the  other; 

Thou  art  a  squier,  and  he  is  a  knight. 

But  God  forbidde,  for  his  blissful  might. 

But  if  a  clerk  could  do  a  gentle  deed 

As  well  as  any  of  you,  it  is  no  drede*  *doubt 

Sir,  I  release  thee  thy  thousand  pound. 

As  thou  right  now  were  crept  out  of  the  ground. 

Nor  ever  ere  now  haddest  knowen  me. 

For,  Sir,  I  will  not  take  a  penny  of  thee 

For  all  my  craft,  nor  naught  for  my  travail;*  *labour,  pains 

Thou  hast  y-payed  well  for  my  vitaille; 

It  is  enough;  and  farewell,  have  good  day." 

And  took  his  horse,  and  forth  he  went  his  way. 

Lordings,  this  question  would  I  aske  now. 

Which  was  the  moste  free,*  as  thinketh  you?  *generous  <32> 

Now  telle  me,  ere  that  ye  farther  wend. 

I  can*  no  more,  my  tale  is  at  an  end.  *know,  can  tell 


380 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


^Ae  QDoefO'/f^  i  I:ya/e. 


The  Prologue. 

["YEA,  let  that  passe,"  quoth  our  Host,  "as  now. 

Sir  Doctor  of  Physik,  I  praye  you. 

Tell  us  a  tale  of  some  honest  mattere." 

"It  shall  be  done,  if  that  ye  will  it  hear," 

Said  this  Doctor;  and  his  tale  gan  anon. 

"Now,  good  men,"  quoth  he,  "hearken  everyone."] 


The  Tale. 

There  was,  as  telleth  Titus  Livius,  <  1  > 
A  knight,  that  called  was  Virginius, 
Full  filled  of  honour  and  worthiness. 
And  strong  of  friendes,  and  of  great  richess. 
This  knight  one  daughter  hadde  by  his  wife; 
No  children  had  he  more  in  all  his  life. 
Fair  was  this  maid  in  excellent  beauty 
Aboven  ev'ry  wight  that  man  may  see: 
For  nature  had  with  sov'reign  diligence 
Y-formed  her  in  so  great  excellence. 
As  though  she  woulde  say,  "Lo,  I,  Nature, 
Thus  can  I  form  and  paint  a  creature. 
When  that  me  list;  who  can  me  counterfeit? 


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Pygmalion?  not  though  he  aye  forge  and  beat. 

Or  grave  or  painte:  for  I  dare  well  sayn, 

Apelles,  Zeuxis,  shoulde  work  in  vain. 

Either  to  grave,  or  paint,  or  forge,  or  beat. 

If  they  presumed  me  to  counterfeit. 

For  he  that  is  the  former  principal. 

Hath  made  me  his  vicar-general 

To  form  and  painten  earthly  creatures 

Right  as  me  list,  and  all  thing  in  my  cure*  is. 

Under  the  moone,  that  may  wane  and  wax. 

And  for  my  work  right  nothing  will  I  ax* 

My  lord  and  I  be  full  of  one  accord. 

I  made  her  to  the  worship*  of  my  lord; 

So  do  I  all  mine  other  creatures. 

What  colour  that  they  have,  or  what  figures." 

Thus  seemeth  me  that  Nature  woulde  say. 


381 


This  maiden  was  of  age  twelve  year  and  tway,* 

In  which  that  Nature  hadde  such  delight. 

For  right  as  she  can  paint  a  lily  white. 

And  red  a  rose,  right  with  such  painture 

She  painted  had  this  noble  creature. 

Ere  she  was  born,  upon  her  limbes  free. 

Where  as  by  right  such  colours  shoulde  be: 

And  Phoebus  dyed  had  her  tresses  great. 

Like  to  the  streames*  of  his  burned  heat. 

And  if  that  excellent  was  her  beauty, 

A  thousand-fold  more  virtuous  was  she. 

In  her  there  lacked  no  condition. 

That  is  to  praise,  as  by  discretion. 

As  well  in  ghost*  as  body  chaste  was  she: 

For  which  she  flower'd  in  virginity. 

With  all  humility  and  abstinence. 

With  alle  temperance  and  patience. 


*ask 


"two 


*beams,  rays 


*mind,  spirit 


382 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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383 


With  measure*  eke  of  bearing  and  array.  *moderation 

Discreet  she  was  in  answering  alway, 

Though  she  were  wise  as  Pallas,  dare  I  sayn; 

Her  faconde*  eke  full  womanly  and  plain,  *speech  <2> 

No  counterfeited  termes  hadde  she 

To  seeme  wise;  but  after  her  degree 

She  spake,  and  all  her  worde's  more  and  less 

Sounding  in  virtue  and  in  gentleness. 

Shamefast  she  was  in  maiden's  shamefastness. 

Constant  in  heart,  and  ever  *in  business*  *diligent,  eager* 

To  drive  her  out  of  idle  sluggardy: 

Bacchus  had  of  her  mouth  right  no  mast'ry. 

For  wine  and  slothe  <3>  do  Venus  increase. 

As  men  in  fire  will  casten  oil  and  grease. 

And  of  her  owen  virtue,  unconstrain'd. 

She  had  herself  full  often  sicky-feign'd. 

For  that  she  woulde  flee  the  company. 

Where  likely  was  to  treaten  of  folly. 

As  is  at  feasts,  at  revels,  and  at  dances. 

That  be  occasions  of  dalliances. 

Such  thinges  make  children  for  to  be 

Too  soone  ripe  and  bold,  as  men  may  see. 

Which  is  full  perilous,  and  hath  been  yore;*  *of  old 

For  all  too  soone  may  she  learne  lore 

Of  boldeness,  when  that  she  is  a  wife. 


And  have  forsaken  fully  such  meschance* 
For  evermore;  therefore,  for  Christe's  sake. 
To  teach  them  virtue  look  that  ye  not  slake, 
A  thief  of  venison,  that  hath  forlaft* 
His  lik'rousness,*  and  all  his  olde  craft. 
Can  keep  a  forest  best  of  any  man; 
Now  keep  them  well,  for  if  ye  will  ye  can. 
Look  well,  that  ye  unto  no  vice  assent. 
Lest  ye  be  damned  for  your  wick'*  intent. 
For  whoso  doth,  a  traitor  is  certain; 
And  take  keep*  of  that  I  shall  you  sayn; 
Of  alle  treason,  sov'reign  pestilence 
Is  when  a  wight  betrayeth  innocence. 
Ye  fathers,  and  ye  mothers  eke  also. 
Though  ye  have  children,  be  it  one  or  mo'. 
Yours  is  the  charge  of  all  their  surveyance,* 
While  that  they  be  under  your  governance. 
Beware,  that  by  example  of  your  living. 
Or  by  your  negligence  in  chastising. 
That  they  not  perish  for  I  dare  well  say. 
If  that  they  do,  ye  shall  it  dear  abeye.* 
Under  a  shepherd  soft  and  negligent 
The  wolf  hath  many  a  sheep  and  lamb  to-rent. 
Suffice  this  example  now  as  here. 
For  I  must  turn  again  to  my  mattere. 


*wickedness  <4> 

*be  slack,  fail 
*forsaken,  left 
*gluttony 


*wicked,  evil 


*heed 


supervision 


pay  for,  suffer  for 


And  ye  mistresses,*  in  your  olde  life  *governesses,  duennas 

That  lordes'  daughters  have  in  governance. 

Take  not  of  my  wordes  displeasance 

Thinke  that  ye  be  set  in  governings 

Of  lordes'  daughters  only  for  two  things; 

Either  for  ye  have  kept  your  honesty. 

Or  else  for  ye  have  fallen  in  frailty 

And  knowe  well  enough  the  olde  dance. 


This  maid,  of  which  I  tell  my  tale  express. 
She  kept  herself,  her  needed  no  mistress; 
For  in  her  living  maidens  mighte  read. 
As  in  a  book,  ev'ry  good  word  and  deed 
That  longeth  to  a  maiden  virtuous; 
She  was  so  prudent  and  so  bounteous. 
For  which  the  fame  out  sprang  on  every  side 
Both  of  her  beauty  and  her  bounte*  wide: 


*goodness 


384 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  through  the  land  they  praised  her  each  one 

That  loved  virtue,  save  envy  alone, 

That  sorry  is  of  other  manne's  weal. 

And  glad  is  of  his  sorrow  and  unheal*  —  *misfortune 

The  Doctor  maketh  this  descriptioun.  —  <5> 

This  maiden  on  a  day  went  in  the  town 

Toward  a  temple,  with  her  mother  dear. 

As  is  of  younge  maidens  the  mannere. 

Now  was  there  then  a  justice  in  that  town. 

That  governor  was  of  that  regioun: 

And  so  befell,  this  judge  his  eyen  cast 

Upon  this  maid,  avising*  her  full  fast,  *observing 

As  she  came  forth  by  where  this  judge  stood; 

Anon  his  hearte  changed  and  his  mood. 

So  was  he  caught  with  beauty  of  this  maid 

And  to  himself  full  privily  he  said, 

"This  maiden  shall  be  mine  *for  any  man."*  *despite  what  any 

Anon  the  fiend  into  his  hearte  ran,  man  may  do* 

And  taught  him  suddenly,  that  he  by  sleight 

This  maiden  to  his  purpose  winne  might. 

For  certes,  by  no  force,  nor  by  no  meed,*  *bribe,  reward 

Him  thought  he  was  not  able  for  to  speed; 

For  she  was  strong  of  friendes,  and  eke  she 

Confirmed  was  in  such  sov'reign  bounte. 

That  well  he  wist  he  might  her  never  win. 

As  for  to  make  her  with  her  body  sin. 

For  which,  with  great  deliberatioun. 

He  sent  after  a  clerk  <6>  was  in  the  town. 

The  which  he  knew  for  subtle  and  for  bold. 

This  judge  unto  this  clerk  his  tale  told 

In  secret  wise,  and  made  him  to  assure 

He  shoulde  tell  it  to  no  creature. 

And  if  he  did,  he  shoulde  lose  his  head. 

And  when  assented  was  this  cursed  rede,*  *counsel,  plot 


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385 


*arranged 


Glad  was  the  judge,  and  made  him  greate  cheer. 

And  gave  him  giftes  precious  and  dear. 

When  shapen*  was  all  their  conspiracy 

From  point  to  point,  how  that  his  lechery 

Performed  shoulde  be  full  subtilly. 

As  ye  shall  hear  it  after  openly. 

Home  went  this  clerk,  that  highte  Claudius. 

This  false  judge,  that  highte  Appius,  — 

(So  was  his  name,  for  it  is  no  fable. 

But  knowen  for  a  storial*  thing  notable;  *historical,  authentic 

The  sentence*  of  it  sooth**  is  out  of  doubt);  —  *account  **true 

This  false  judge  went  now  fast  about 

To  hasten  his  delight  all  that  he  may. 

And  so  befell,  soon  after  on  a  day. 

This  false  judge,  as  telleth  us  the  story. 

As  he  was  wont,  sat  in  his  consistory. 

And  gave  his  doomes*  upon  sundry  case';  *judgments 

This  false  clerk  came  forth  *a  full  great  pace,*  *in  haste 

And  saide;  Lord,  if  that  it  be  your  will. 

As  do  me  right  upon  this  piteous  bill,*  *petition 

In  which  I  plain  upon  Virginius. 

And  if  that  he  will  say  it  is  not  thus, 

I  will  it  prove,  and  finde  good  witness. 

That  sooth  is  what  my  bille  will  express." 

The  judge  answer 'd,  "Of  this,  in  his  absence, 

I  may  not  give  definitive  sentence. 

Let  do*  him  call,  and  I  will  gladly  hear;  *cause 

Thou  shalt  have  alle  right,  and  no  wrong  here." 

Virginius  came  to  weet*  the  judge's  will,  *know,  learn 

And  right  anon  was  read  this  cursed  bill; 

The  sentence  of  it  was  as  ye  shall  hear 

"To  you,  my  lord.  Sir  Appius  so  clear, 

Sheweth  your  poore  servant  Claudius, 

How  that  a  knight  called  Virginius, 


386 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Against  the  law,  against  all  equity, 
Holdeth,  express  against  the  will  of  me. 
My  servant,  which  that  is  my  thrall*  by  right. 
Which  from  my  house  was  stolen  on  a  night. 
While  that  she  was  full  young;  I  will  it  preve* 
By  witness,  lord,  so  that  it  you  *not  grieve;* 
She  is  his  daughter  not,  what  so  he  say 
Wherefore  to  you,  my  lord  the  judge,  I  pray. 
Yield  me  my  thrall,  if  that  it  be  your  will." 
Lo,  this  was  all  the  sentence  of  the  bill. 
Virginius  gan  upon  the  clerk  behold; 
But  hastily,  ere  he  his  tale  told. 
And  would  have  proved  it,  as  should  a  knight. 
And  eke  by  witnessing  of  many  a  wight. 
That  all  was  false  that  said  his  adversary. 
This  cursed  judge  would  no  longer  tarry. 
Nor  hear  a  word  more  of  Virginius, 
But  gave  his  judgement,  and  saide  thus: 
"I  deem*  anon  this  clerk  his  servant  have; 
Thou  shalt  no  longer  in  thy  house  her  save. 
Go,  bring  her  forth,  and  put  her  in  our  ward 
The  clerk  shall  have  his  thrall:  thus  I  award." 


*slave 

*prove 
*be  not  displeasing* 


^pronounce,  determine 


And  when  this  worthy  knight,  Virginius, 

Through  sentence  of  this  justice  Appius, 

Muste  by  force  his  deare  daughter  give 

Unto  the  judge,  in  lechery  to  live. 

He  went  him  home,  and  sat  him  in  his  hall. 

And  let  anon  his  deare  daughter  call; 

And  with  a  face  dead  as  ashes  cold 

Upon  her  humble  face  he  gan  behold. 

With  father's  pity  sticking*  through  his  heart. 

All*  would  he  from  his  purpose  not  convert.** 

"Daughter,"  quoth  he,  "Virginia  by  name. 


piercmg 
*although  **turn  aside 


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There  be  two  wayes,  either  death  or  shame. 

That  thou  must  suffer,  —  alas  that  I  was  bore!*  *born 

For  never  thou  deservedest  wherefore 

To  dien  with  a  sword  or  with  a  knife, 

O  deare  daughter,  ender  of  my  life. 

Whom  I  have  foster'd  up  with  such  pleasance 

That  thou  were  ne'er  out  of  my  remembrance; 

O  daughter,  which  that  art  my  laste  woe. 

And  in  this  life  my  laste  joy  also, 

O  gem  of  chastity,  in  patience 

Take  thou  thy  death,  for  this  is  my  sentence: 

For  love  and  not  for  hate  thou  must  be  dead; 

My  piteous  hand  must  smiten  off  thine  head. 

Alas,  that  ever  Appius  thee  say!*  *saw 

Thus  hath  he  falselyjudged  thee  to-day." 

And  told  her  all  the  case,  as  ye  before 

Have  heard;  it  needeth  not  to  tell  it  more. 


387 


"O  mercy,  deare  father,"  quoth  the  maid. 
And  with  that  word  she  both  her  armes  laid 
About  his  neck,  as  she  was  wont  to  do, 
(The  teares  burst  out  of  her  eyen  two). 
And  said,  "O  goode  father,  shall  I  die? 
Is  there  no  grace?  is  there  no  remedy?" 
"No,  certes,  deare  daughter  mine,"  quoth  he. 
"Then  give  me  leisure,  father  mine,  quoth  she, 
"My  death  for  to  complain*  a  little  space 
For,  pardie,  Jephthah  gave  his  daughter  grace 
For  to  complain,  ere  he  her  slew,  alas!  <7> 
And,  God  it  wot,  nothing  was  her  trespass,* 
But  for  she  ran  her  father  first  to  see. 
To  welcome  him  with  great  solemnity." 
And  with  that  word  she  fell  a-swoon  anon; 
And  after,  when  her  swooning  was  y-gone. 


*bewail 


*offence 


388 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


She  rose  up,  and  unto  her  father  said: 
"Blessed  be  God,  that  I  shall  die  a  maid. 
Give  me  my  death,  ere  that  I  have  shame; 
Do  with  your  child  your  will,  in  Godde's  name." 
And  with  that  word  she  prayed  him  full  oft 
That  with  his  sword  he  woulde  smite  her  soft; 
And  with  that  word,  a-swoon  again  she  fell. 
Her  father,  with  full  sorrowful  heart  and  fell,* 
Her  head  off  smote,  and  by  the  top  it  hent,* 
And  to  the  judge  he  went  it  to  present. 
As  he  sat  yet  in  doom*  in  consistory. 


*stern,  cruel 
*took 

*judgment 


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The  worm  of  conscience  may  agrise*  frighten,  horrify 

Of  wicked  life,  though  it  so  privy  be. 

That  no  man  knows  thereof,  save  God  and  he; 

For  be  he  lewed*  man  or  elles  lear'd,**  *ignorant  **learned 

He  knows  not  how  soon  he  shall  be  afear'd; 

Therefore  I  rede*  you  this  counsel  take,  *advise 

Forsake  sin,  ere  sinne  you  forsake. 


389 


And  when  the  judge  it  saw,  as  saith  the  story. 

He  bade  to  take  him,  and  to  hang  him  fast. 

But  right  anon  a  thousand  people  *in  thrast* 

To  save  the  knight,  for  ruth  and  for  pity 

For  knowen  was  the  false  iniquity. 

The  people  anon  had  suspect*  in  this  thing. 

By  manner  of  the  clerke's  challenging. 

That  it  was  by  th'assent  of  Appius; 

They  wiste  well  that  he  was  lecherous. 

For  which  unto  this  Appius  they  gon. 

And  cast  him  in  a  prison  right  anon. 

Where  as  he  slew  himself:  and  Claudius, 

That  servant  was  unto  this  Appius, 

Was  doomed  for  to  hang  upon  a  tree; 

But  that  Virginius,  of  his  pity. 

So  prayed  for  him,  that  he  was  exil'd; 

And  elles  certes  had  he  been  beguil'd;* 

The  remenant  were  hanged,  more  and  less. 

That  were  consenting  to  this  cursedness.* 

Here  men  may  see  how  sin  hath  his  merite:* 

Beware,  for  no  man  knows  how  God  will  smite 

In  no  degree,  nor  in  which  manner  wise 


*rushed  in* 


suspicion 


*see  note  <8> 

*villainy 
*deserts 


390 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


me  &6m^nei(^'6  t:ya/e. 


The  Prologue. 


OUR  Hoste  gan  to  swear  as  he  were  wood; 

"Harow!"  quoth  he,  "by  nailes  and  by  blood,  <  1  > 

This  was  a  cursed  thief,  a  false  justice. 

As  shameful  death  as  hearte  can  devise 

Come  to  these  judges  and  their  advoca's.*        *advocates,  counsellors 

Algate*  this  sely**  maid  is  slain,  alas!        *nevertheless  **innocent 

Alas!  too  deare  bought  she  her  beauty 

Wherefore  I  say,  that  all  day  man  may  see 

That  giftes  of  fortune  and  of  nature 

Be  cause  of  death  to  many  a  creature. 

Her  beauty  was  her  death,  I  dare  well  sayn; 

Alas!  so  piteously  as  she  was  slain. 

[Of  bothe  giftes,  that  I  speak  of  now 

Men  have  full  often  more  harm  than  prow,*]  *profit 

But  truely,  mine  owen  master  dear. 

This  was  a  piteous  tale  for  to  hear; 

But  natheless,  pass  over;  'tis  *no  force.* 

I  pray  to  God  to  save  thy  gentle  corse,* 

And  eke  thine  urinals,  and  thyjordans. 

Thine  Hippocras,  and  eke  thy  Galliens,  <2> 

And  every  boist*  full  of  thy  lectuary, 

God  bless  them,  and  our  lady  Sainte  Mary. 

So  may  I  the',*  thou  art  a  proper  man,  *thrive 


no  matter 
*body 


*box  <3> 


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391 


And  like  a  prelate,  by  Saint  Ronian; 

Said  I  not  well?  Can  I  not  speak  *in  term?* 

But  well  I  wot  thou  dost*  mine  heart  to  erme,* 

That  I  have  almost  caught  a  cardiacle:* 

By  corpus  Domini  <6>,  but*  I  have  triacle,** 

Or  else  a  draught  of  moist  and  corny  <7>  ale. 

Or  but*  I  hear  anon  a  merry  tale. 

Mine  heart  is  brost*  for  pity  of  this  maid. 

Thou  *bel  ami,*  thou  Pardoner,"  he  said, 

"Tell  us  some  mirth  of  japes*  right  anon." 

"It  shall  be  done,"  quoth  he,  "by  Saint  Ronion. 

But  first,"  quoth  he,  "here  at  this  ale-stake* 

I  will  both  drink,  and  biten  on  a  cake." 

But  right  anon  the  gentles  gan  to  cry, 

"Nay,  let  him  tell  us  of  no  ribaldry. 

Tell  us  some  moral  thing,  that  we  may  lear* 

Some  wit,*  and  thenne  will  we  gladly  hear." 

"I  grant  y-wis,"*  quoth  he;  "but  I  must  think 

Upon  some  honest  thing  while  that  I  drink." 


*in  set  form* 
*makest  **grieve<4> 
*heartache  <5> 
*unless  **a  remedy 

*unless 
*burst,  broken 
*good  friend* 
*jokes 

■"ale-house  sign  <8> 


*learn 
*wisdom,  sense 
*surely 


The  Tale. 


Lordings  (quoth  he),  in  churche  when  I  preach. 


I  paine  me  to  have  an  hautein*  speech. 
And  ring  it  out,  as  round  as  doth  a  bell. 
For  I  know  all  by  rote  that  I  tell. 
My  theme  is  always  one,  and  ever  was; 
Radix  malorum  est  cupiditas.<3> 
First  I  pronounce  whence  that  I  come. 
And  then  my  bulles  shew  I  all  and  some; 
Our  liege  lorde's  seal  on  my  patent. 
That  shew  I  first,  *my  body  to  warrent,* 
That  no  man  be  so  hardy,  priest  nor  clerk. 


*take  pains  **loud  <2> 


*for  the  protection 
of  my  person* 


392 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Me  to  disturb  of  Christe's  holy  werk. 
And  after  that  then  tell  I  forth  my  tales. 
Bulles  of  popes,  and  of  cardinales, 
Of  patriarchs,  and  of  bishops  I  shew. 
And  in  Latin  I  speak  a  wordes  few. 
To  savour  with  my  predication. 
And  for  to  stir  men  to  devotion 
Then  show  I  forth  my  longe  crystal  stones, 
Y-crammed  fall  of  cloutes*  and  of  bones; 
Relics  they  be,  as  *weene  they*  each  one.        ^ 
Then  have  I  in  latoun*  a  shoulder-bone 
Which  that  was  of  a  holy  Jewe's  sheep. 
"Good  men,"  say  I,  "take  of  my  wordes  keep;' 
If  that  this  bone  be  wash'd  in  any  well. 
If  cow,  or  calf,  or  sheep,  or  oxe  swell. 
That  any  worm  hath  eat,  or  worm  y-stung. 
Take  water  of  that  well,  and  wash  his  tongue. 
And  it  is  whole  anon;  and  farthermore 
Of  pockes,  and  of  scab,  and  every  sore 
Shall  every  sheep  be  whole,  that  of  this  well 
Drinketh  a  draught;  take  keep*  of  that  I  tell. 


*rags,  fragments 
as  my  listeners  think* 
*brass 

*heed 


*heed 


"If  that  the  goodman,  that  the  beastes  oweth,*  *owneth 

Will  every  week,  ere  that  the  cock  him  croweth. 

Fasting,  y-drinken  of  this  well  a  draught. 

As  thilke  holy  Jew  our  elders  taught. 

His  beastes  and  his  store  shall  multiply. 

And,  Sirs,  also  it  healeth  jealousy; 

For  though  a  man  be  fall'n  in  jealous  rage. 

Let  make  with  this  water  his  pottage. 

And  never  shall  he  more  his  wife  mistrist,*  *mistrust 

*Though  he  the  sooth  of  her  defaulte  wist;*  *though  he  truly 

All  had  she  taken  priestes  two  or  three.  <4>  knew  her  sin* 

Here  is  a  mittain*  eke,  that  ye  may  see;  *glove,  mitten 


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He  that  his  hand  will  put  in  this  mittain. 

He  shall  have  multiplying  of  his  grain. 

When  he  hath  sowen,  be  it  wheat  or  oats. 

So  that  he  offer  pence,  or  elles  groats. 

And,  men  and  women,  one  thing  warn  I  you; 

If  any  wight  be  in  this  churche  now 

That  hath  done  sin  horrible,  so  that  he 

Dare  not  for  shame  of  it  y-shriven*  be;  *confessed 

Or  any  woman,  be  she  young  or  old. 

That  hath  y-made  her  husband  cokewold,*  *cuckold 

Such  folk  shall  have  no  power  nor  no  grace 

To  offer  to  my  relics  in  this  place. 

And  whoso  fmdeth  him  out  of  such  blame. 

He  will  come  up  and  offer  in  God's  name; 

And  I  assoil*  him  by  the  authority  *absolve 

Which  that  by  bull  y-granted  was  to  me." 


393 


By  this  gaud*  have  I  wonne  year  by  year  *jest,  trick 

A  hundred  marks,  since  I  was  pardonere. 

I  stande  like  a  clerk  in  my  pulpit. 

And  when  the  lewed*  people  down  is  set,  *ignorant 

I  preache  so  as  ye  have  heard  before. 

And  telle  them  a  hundred  japes*  more.  *jests,  deceits 

Then  pain  I  me  to  stretche  forth  my  neck. 

And  east  and  west  upon  the  people  I  beck. 

As  doth  a  dove,  sitting  on  a  bern;*  *barn 

My  handes  and  my  tongue  go  so  yern,*  *briskly 

That  it  is  joy  to  see  my  business. 

Of  avarice  and  of  such  cursedness*  *wickedness 

Is  all  my  preaching,  for  to  make  them  free 

To  give  their  pence,  and  namely*  unto  me.  *especially 

For  mine  intent  is  not  but  for  to  win. 

And  nothing  for  correction  of  sin. 

I  recke  never,  when  that  they  be  buried. 


394 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Though  that  their  soules  go  a  blackburied.<5> 

For  certes  *many  a  predication  *preaching  is  often  inspired 

Cometh  oft-time  of  evil  intention;*  by  evil  motives* 

Some  for  pleasance  of  folk,  and  flattery, 

To  be  advanced  by  hypocrisy; 

And  some  for  vainglory,  and  some  for  hate. 

For,  when  I  dare  not  otherwise  debate. 

Then  will  I  sting  him  with  my  tongue  smart*  *sharply 

In  preaching,  so  that  he  shall  not  astart*  *escape 

To  be  defamed  falsely,  if  that  he 

Hath  trespass'd*  to  my  brethren  or  to  me.  *offended 

For,  though  I  telle  not  his  proper  name. 

Men  shall  well  knowe  that  it  is  the  same 

By  signes,  and  by  other  circumstances. 

Thus  *quite  I*  folk  that  do  us  displeasances:  *I  am  revenged  on* 

Thus  spit  I  out  my  venom,  under  hue 

Of  holiness,  to  seem  holy  and  true. 

But,  shortly  mine  intent  I  will  devise, 

I  preach  of  nothing  but  of  covetise. 

Therefore  my  theme  is  yet,  and  ever  was,  — 

Radix  malorum  est  cupiditas.  <3> 

Thus  can  I  preach  against  the  same  vice 

Which  that  I  use,  and  that  is  avarice. 

But  though  myself  be  guilty  in  that  sin. 

Yet  can  I  maken  other  folk  to  twin*  *depart 

From  avarice,  and  sore  them  repent. 

But  that  is  not  my  principal  intent; 

I  preache  nothing  but  for  covetise. 

Of  this  mattere  it  ought  enough  suffice. 

Then  tell  I  them  examples  many  a  one. 

Of  olde  stories  longe  time  gone; 

For  lewed*  people  love  tales  old;  *unlearned 

Such  thinges  can  they  well  report  and  hold. 

What?  trowe  ye,  that  whiles  I  may  preach 


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And  winne  gold  and  silver  for*  I  teach,  *because 

That  I  will  live  in  p overt'  wilfully? 

Nay,  nay,  I  thought  it  never  truely. 

For  I  will  preach  and  beg  in  sundry  lands; 

I  will  not  do  no  labour  with  mine  hands. 

Nor  make  baskets  for  to  live  thereby. 

Because  I  will  not  beggen  idlely 

I  will  none  of  the  apostles  counterfeit;*  *imitate  (in  poverty) 

I  will  have  money,  wool,  and  cheese,  and  wheat. 

All*  were  it  given  of  the  poorest  page,  *even  if 

Or  of  the  pooreste  widow  in  a  village: 

All  should  her  children  sterve*  for  famine.  *die 

Nay,  I  will  drink  the  liquor  of  the  vine. 

And  have  a  jolly  wench  in  every  town. 

But  hearken,  lordings,  in  conclusioun; 

Your  liking  is,  that  I  shall  tell  a  tale 

Now  I  have  drunk  a  draught  of  corny  ale. 

By  God,  I  hope  I  shall  you  tell  a  thing 

That  shall  by  reason  be  to  your  liking; 

For  though  myself  be  a  full  vicious  man, 

A  moral  tale  yet  I  you  telle  can. 

Which  I  am  wont  to  preache,  for  to  win. 

Now  hold  your  peace,  my  tale  I  will  begin. 


In  Flanders  whilom  was  a  company 

Of  younge  folkes,  that  haunted  folly. 

As  riot,  hazard,  stewes,*  and  taverns;  *brothels 

Where  as  with  lutes,  harpes,  and  giterns,*  *guitars 

They  dance  and  play  at  dice  both  day  and  night. 

And  eat  also,  and  drink  over  their  might; 

Through  which  they  do  the  devil  sacrifice 

Within  the  devil's  temple,  in  cursed  wise. 

By  superfluity  abominable. 


395 


396 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Their  oathes  be  so  great  and  so  damnable, 

That  it  is  grisly*  for  to  hear  them  swear.  *dreadful  <6> 

Our  blissful  Lorde's  body  they  to-tear;*  *tore  to  pieces  <7> 

Them  thought  the  Jewes  rent  him  not  enough, 

And  each  of  them  at  other's  sinne  lough.*  *laughed 

And  right  anon  in  come  tombesteres  <8> 

Fetis*  and  small,  and  younge  fruitesteres.**       *dainty  **fruit-girls 

Singers  with  harpes,  baudes,*  waferers,**      *revellers  **cake-sellers 

Which  be  the  very  devil's  officers. 

To  kindle  and  blow  the  fire  of  lechery. 

That  is  annexed  unto  gluttony. 

The  Holy  Writ  take  I  to  my  witness. 

That  luxury  is  in  wine  and  drunkenness.  <9> 

Lo,  how  that  drunken  Lot  unkindely*  *unnaturally 

Layby  his  daughters  two  unwittingly. 

So  drunk  he  was  he  knew  not  what  he  wrought. 

Herodes,  who  so  well  the  stories  sought,  <10> 

When  he  of  wine  replete  was  at  his  feast. 

Right  at  his  owen  table  gave  his  best*  *command 

To  slay  the  Baptist  John  full  guilteless. 

Seneca  saith  a  good  word,  doubteless: 

He  saith  he  can  no  difference  find 

Betwixt  a  man  that  is  out  of  his  mind. 

And  a  man  whiche  that  is  drunkelew:*  *a  drunkard  <  1 1  > 

But  that  woodness,*  y-fallen  in  a  shrew,*   *madness  **one  evil-tempered 

Persevereth  longer  than  drunkenness. 


O  gluttony,  full  of  all  cursedness; 

O  cause  first  of  our  confusion. 

Original  of  our  damnation. 

Till  Christ  had  bought  us  with  his  blood  again! 

Looke,  how  deare,  shortly  for  to  sayn, 

Abought*  was  first  this  cursed  villainy: 

Corrupt  was  all  this  world  for  gluttony. 


*atoned  for 


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397 


Adam  our  father,  and  his  wife  also. 
From  Paradise,  to  labour  and  to  woe. 
Were  driven  for  that  vice,  it  is  no  dread.* 
For  while  that  Adam  fasted,  as  I  read. 
He  was  in  Paradise;  and  when  that  he 
Ate  of  the  fruit  defended*  of  the  tree. 
Anon  he  was  cast  out  to  woe  and  pain. 

0  gluttony!  well  ought  us  on  thee  plain. 
Oh!  wist  a  man  how  many  maladies 
Follow  of  excess  and  of  gluttonies. 

He  woulde  be  the  more  measurable* 

Of  his  diete,  sitting  at  his  table. 

Alas!  the  shorte  throat,  the  tender  mouth, 

Maketh  that  east  and  west,  and  north  and  south. 

In  earth,  in  air,  in  water,  men  do  swink* 

To  get  a  glutton  dainty  meat  and  drink. 

Of  this  mattere,  O  Paul!  well  canst  thou  treat 

Meat  unto  womb,*  and  womb  eke  unto  meat. 

Shall  God  destroye  both,  as  Paulus  saith.  <13> 

Alas!  a  foul  thing  is  it,  by  my  faith. 

To  say  this  word,  and  fouler  is  the  deed. 

When  man  so  drinketh  of  the  *white  and  red,* 

That  of  his  throat  he  maketh  his  privy 

Through  thilke  cursed  superfluity 

The  apostle  saith,  <  14>  weeping  full  piteously. 

There  walk  many,  of  which  you  told  have  I,  — 

1  say  it  now  weeping  with  piteous  voice,  — 
That  they  be  enemies  of  Christe's  crois;* 

Of  which  the  end  is  death;  womb*  is  their  God. 

O  womb,  O  belly,  stinking  is  thy  cod,* 

Full  fill'd  of  dung  and  of  corruptioun; 

At  either  end  of  thee  foul  is  the  soun. 

How  great  labour  and  cost  is  thee  to  find!* 

These  cookes  how  they  stamp,  and  strain,  and  grind. 


*doubt 


forbidden  <12> 


*moderate 


*labour 


*belly 


cross 
*belly 
*bag<15> 


*supply 


398 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  turne  substance  into  accident, 

To  fulfill  all  thy  likerous  talent! 

Out  of  the  harde  bones  knocke  they 

The  marrow,  for  they  caste  naught  away 

That  may  go  through  the  gullet  soft  and  swoot* 

Of  spicery  and  leaves,  of  bark  and  root. 

Shall  be  his  sauce  y-maked  by  delight. 

To  make  him  have  a  newer  appetite. 

But,  certes,  he  that  haunteth  such  delices 

Is  dead  while  that  he  liveth  in  those  vices. 


sweet 


A  lecherous  thing  is  wine,  and  drunkenness 

Is  full  of  striving  and  of  wretchedness. 

O  drunken  man!  disfgur'd  is  thy  face,<16> 

Sour  is  thy  breath,  foul  art  thou  to  embrace: 

And  through  thy  drunken  nose  sowneth  the  soun'. 

As  though  thous  saidest  aye,  Samsoun!  Samsoun! 

And  yet,  God  wot,  Samson  drank  never  wine. 

Thou  fallest  as  it  were  a  sticked  swine; 

Thy  tongue  is  lost,  and  all  thine  honest  cure;* 

For  drunkenness  is  very  sepulture* 

Of  manne's  wit  and  his  discretion. 

In  whom  that  drink  hath  domination. 

He  can  no  counsel  keep,  it  is  no  dread.* 

Now  keep  you  from  the  white  and  from  the  red. 

And  namely*  from  the  white  wine  of  Lepe,<17> 

That  is  to  sell  in  Fish  Street  <18>  and  in  Cheap. 

This  wine  of  Spaine  creepeth  subtilly  — 

In  other  wines  growing  faste  by. 

Of  which  there  riseth  such  fumosity. 

That  when  a  man  hath  drunken  draughtes  three. 

And  weeneth  that  he  be  at  home  in  Cheap, 

He  is  in  Spain,  right  at  the  town  of  Lepe, 

Not  at  the  Rochelle,  nor  at  Bourdeaux  town; 


care 
*tomb 


*doubt 

*especially 


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And  thenne  will  he  say,  Samsoun!  Samsoun! 

But  hearken,  lordings,  one  word,  I  you  pray. 

That  all  the  sovreign  actes,  dare  I  say. 

Of  victories  in  the  Old  Testament, 

Through  very  God  that  is  omnipotent. 

Were  done  in  abstinence  and  in  prayere: 

Look  in  the  Bible,  and  there  ye  may  it  lean*  *learn 

Look,  Attila,  the  greate  conqueror. 

Died  in  his  sleep,  <19>  with  shame  and  dishonour. 

Bleeding  aye  at  his  nose  in  drunkenness: 

A  captain  should  aye  live  in  soberness 

And  o'er  all  this,  advise*  you  right  well  *consider,  bethink 

What  was  commanded  unto  Lemuel;  <20> 

Not  Samuel,  but  Lemuel,  say  I. 

Reade  the  Bible,  and  fmd  it  expressly 

Of  wine  giving  to  them  that  have  justice. 

No  more  of  this,  for  it  may  well  suffice. 


399 


And,  now  that  I  have  spoke  of  gluttony. 

Now  will  I  you  *defende  hazardry* 

Hazard  is  very  mother  of  leasings,* 

And  of  deceit,  and  cursed  forswearings: 

Blasphem'  of  Christ,  manslaughter,  and  waste  also 

Of  chattel*  and  of  time;  and  furthermo' 

It  is  repreve,*  and  contrar'  of  honour. 

For  to  be  held  a  common  hazardour. 

And  ever  the  higher  he  is  of  estate. 

The  more  he  is  holden  desolate.* 

If  that  a  prince  use  hazardry. 

In  alle  governance  and  policy 

He  is,  as  by  common  opinion, 

Y-hold  the  less  in  reputation. 


*forbid  gambling* 
*lies 


property 
*reproach 


undone,  worthless 


Chilon,  that  was  a  wise  ambassador. 


400 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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401 


Was  sent  to  Corinth  with  full  great  honor 

From  Lacedemon,  <21>  to  make  alliance; 

And  when  he  came,  it  happen'd  him,  by  chance. 

That  all  the  greatest  that  were  of  that  land, 

Y-playing  atte  hazard  he  them  fand.* 

For  which,  as  soon  as  that  it  mighte  be. 

He  stole  him  home  again  to  his  country 

And  saide  there,  "I  will  not  lose  my  name. 

Nor  will  I  take  on  me  so  great  diffame,* 

You  to  ally  unto  no  hazardors.* 

Sende  some  otherwise  ambassadors. 

For,  by  my  troth,  me  were  lever*  die. 

Than  I  should  you  to  hazardors  ally 

For  ye,  that  be  so  glorious  in  honours. 

Shall  not  ally  you  to  no  hazardours. 

As  by  my  will,  nor  as  by  my  treaty" 

This  wise  philosopher  thus  said  he. 

Look  eke  how  to  the  King  Demetrius 

The  King  of  Parthes,  as  the  book  saith  us. 

Sent  him  a  pair  of  dice  of  gold  in  scorn. 

For  he  had  used  hazard  therebeforn: 

For  which  he  held  his  glory  and  renown 

At  no  value  or  reputatioun. 

Lordes  may  fmden  other  manner  play 

Honest  enough  to  drive  the  day  away 

Now  will  I  speak  of  oathes  false  and  great 
A  word  or  two,  as  olde  bookes  treat. 
Great  swearing  is  a  thing  abominable. 
And  false  swearing  is  more  reprovable. 
The  highe  God  forbade  swearing  at  all; 
Witness  on  Matthew:  <22>  but  in  special 
Of  swearing  saith  the  holyjeremie,  <23> 
Thou  thalt  swear  sooth  thine  oathes,  and  not  lie: 


*found 


*reproach 
*gamblers 

*rather 


*judgement 
*wickedness 


And  swear  in  doom*  and  eke  in  righteousness; 

But  idle  swearing  is  a  cursedness.* 

Behold  and  see,  there  in  the  firste  table 

Of  highe  Godde's  hestes*  honourable,  *commandments 

How  that  the  second  best  of  him  is  this. 

Take  not  my  name  in  idle*  or  amiss.  *in  vain 

Lo,  rather*  he  forbiddeth  such  swearing,  *sooner 

Than  homicide,  or  many  a  cursed  thing; 

I  say  that  as  by  order  thus  it  standeth; 

This  knoweth  he  that  his  bests*  understandeth,  *commandments 

How  that  the  second  best  of  God  is  that. 

And  farthermore,  I  will  thee  tell  all  plat,*  *flatly,  plainly 

That  vengeance  shall  not  parte  from  his  house. 

That  of  his  oathes  is  outrageous. 

"By  Godde's  precious  heart,  and  by  his  nails,  <24> 

And  by  the  blood  of  Christ,  that  is  in  Hailes,  <25> 

Seven  is  my  chance,  and  thine  is  cinque  and  trey: 

By  Godde's  armes,  if  thou  falsely  play. 

This  dagger  shall  throughout  thine  hearte  go." 

This  fruit  comes  of  the  *bicched  bones  two,*    *two  cursed  bones  (dice)* 

Forswearing,  ire,  falseness,  and  homicide. 

Now,  for  the  love  of  Christ  that  for  us  died. 

Leave  your  oathes,  bothe  great  and  smale. 

But,  Sirs,  now  will  I  ell  you  forth  my  tale. 


These  riotoures  three,  of  which  I  tell. 
Long  *erst  than*  prime  rang  of  any  bell. 
Were  set  them  in  a  tavern  for  to  drink; 
And  as  they  sat,  they  heard  a  belle  clink 
Before  a  corpse,  was  carried  to  the  grave. 
That  one  of  them  gan  calle  to  his  knave,* 
"Go  bet,"  <26>  quoth  he,  "and  aske  readily 
What  corpse  is  this,  that  passeth  here  forth  by; 
And  look  that  thou  report  his  name  well." 


*before 


servant 


402 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"Sir,"  quoth  the  boy,  "it  needeth  never  a  deal;*  *whit 

It  was  me  told  ere  ye  came  here  two  hours; 

He  was,  pardie,  an  old  fellow  of  yours. 

And  suddenly  he  was  y-slain  to-night; 

Fordrunk*  as  he  sat  on  his  bench  upright,  *completely  drunk 

There  came  a  privy  thief,  men  clepe  Death, 

That  in  this  country  all  the  people  slay'th. 

And  with  his  spear  he  smote  his  heart  in  two. 

And  went  his  way  withoute  wordes  mo'. 

He  hath  a  thousand  slain  this  pestilence; 

And,  master,  ere  you  come  in  his  presence. 

Me  thinketh  that  it  were  full  necessary 

For  to  beware  of  such  an  adversary; 

Be  ready  for  to  meet  him  evermore. 

Thus  taughte  me  my  dame;  I  say  no  more." 

"By  Sainte  Mary,"  said  the  tavernere, 

"The  child  saith  sooth,  for  he  hath  slain  this  year. 

Hence  ov'r  a  mile,  within  a  great  village. 

Both  man  and  woman,  child,  and  hind,  and  page; 

I  trow  his  habitation  be  there; 

To  be  advised*  great  wisdom  it  were,  *watchful,  on  one's  guard 

Ere*  that  he  did  a  man  a  dishonour."  *lest 


"Yea,  Godde's  armes,"  quoth  this  riotour, 
"Is  it  such  peril  with  him  for  to  meet? 
I  shall  him  seek,  by  stile  and  eke  by  street. 
I  make  a  vow,  by  Godde's  digne*  bones." 
Hearken,  fellows,  we  three  be  alle  ones:* 
Let  each  of  us  hold  up  his  hand  to  other. 
And  each  of  us  become  the  other's  brother. 
And  we  will  slay  this  false  traitor  Death; 
He  shall  be  slain,  he  that  so  many  slay'th. 
By  Godde's  dignity,  ere  it  be  night." 
Together  have  these  three  their  trothe  plight 


*worthy 
*at  one 


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403 


*dreadful 
tore  to  pieces  <7> 
*catch 


*greeted 
look  on  graciously 


*closely  wrapt  up 


To  live  and  die  each  one  of  them  for  other 

As  though  he  were  his  owen  sworen  brother. 

And  up  they  start,  all  drunken,  in  this  rage. 

And  forth  they  go  towardes  that  village 

Of  which  the  taverner  had  spoke  beforn. 

And  many  a  grisly*  oathe  have  they  sworn. 

And  Christe's  blessed  body  they  to-rent;* 

"Death  shall  be  dead,  if  that  we  may  him  hent.' 

When  they  had  gone  not  fully  half  a  mile. 

Right  as  they  would  have  trodden  o'er  a  stile. 

An  old  man  and  a  poore  with  them  met. 

This  olde  man  full  meekely  them  gret,* 

And  saide  thus;  "Now,  lordes,  God  you  see!"* 

The  proudest  of  these  riotoures  three 

Answer 'd  again;  "What?  churl,  with  sorry  grace. 

Why  art  thou  all  forwrapped*  save  thy  face? 

Why  livest  thou  so  long  in  so  great  age?" 

This  olde  man  gan  look  on  his  visage. 

And  saide  thus;  "For  that  I  cannot  fmd 

A  man,  though  that  I  walked  unto  Ind, 

Neither  in  city,  nor  in  no  village  go. 

That  woulde  change  his  youthe  for  mine  age; 

And  therefore  must  I  have  mine  age  still 

As  longe  time  as  it  is  Godde's  will. 

And  Death,  alas!  he  will  not  have  my  life. 

Thus  walk  I  like  a  resteless  caitife,*  *miserable  wretch 

And  on  the  ground,  which  is  my  mother's  gate, 

I  knocke  with  my  staff,  early  and  late. 

And  say  to  her,  'Leve*  mother,  let  me  in.  *dear 

Lo,  how  I  wane,  flesh,  and  blood,  and  skin; 

Alas!  when  shall  my  bones  be  at  rest? 

Mother,  with  you  I  woulde  change  my  chest. 

That  in  my  chamber  longe  time  hath  be. 

Yea,  for  an  hairy  clout  to  *wrap  in  me.'*  *wrap  myself  in* 


404 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


But  yet  to  me  she  will  not  do  that  grace, 
For  which  fall  pale  and  welked*  is  my  face. 
But,  Sirs,  to  you  it  is  no  courtesy 
To  speak  unto  an  old  man  villainy. 
But*  he  trespass  in  word  or  else  in  deed. 
In  Holy  Writ  ye  may  yourselves  read; 
'Against*  an  old  man,  hoar  upon  his  head. 
Ye  should  arise:'  therefore  I  you  rede,* 
Ne  do  unto  an  old  man  no  harm  now. 
No  more  than  ye  would  a  man  did  you 
In  age,  if  that  ye  may  so  long  abide. 
And  God  be  with  you,  whether  ye  go  or  ride 
I  must  go  thither  as  I  have  to  go." 

"Nay,  olde  churl,  by  God  thou  shalt  not  so," 

Saide  this  other  hazardor  anon; 

"Thou  partest  not  so  lightly,  by  Saint  John. 

Thou  spakest  right  now  of  that  traitor  Death, 

That  in  this  country  all  our  friendes  slay'th; 

Have  here  my  troth,  as  thou  art  his  espy;* 

Tell  where  he  is,  or  thou  shalt  it  abie,* 

By  God  and  by  the  holy  sacrament; 

For  soothly  thou  art  one  of  his  assent 

To  slay  us  younge  folk,  thou  false  thief" 

"Now,  Sirs,"  quoth  he,  "if  it  be  you  so  lieP 

To  fmde  Death,  turn  up  this  crooked  way. 

For  in  that  grove  I  left  him,  by  my  fay. 

Under  a  tree,  and  there  he  will  abide; 

Nor  for  your  boast  he  will  him  nothing  hide. 

See  ye  that  oak?  right  there  ye  shall  him  fmd. 

God  save  you,  that  bought  again  mankind. 

And  you  amend!" Thus  said  this  olde  man; 

And  evereach  of  these  riotoures  ran. 

Till  they  came  to  the  tree,  and  there  they  found 


*withered 


except 

*to  meet 
*advise 


spy 
*suffer  for 


*desire 


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Of  florins  fme,  of  gold  y-coined  round. 

Well  nigh  a  seven  bushels,  as  them  thought. 

No  longer  as  then  after  Death  they  sought; 

But  each  of  them  so  glad  was  of  the  sight. 

For  that  the  florins  were  so  fair  and  bright. 

That  down  they  sat  them  by  the  precious  hoard. 

The  youngest  of  them  spake  the  firste  word: 

"Brethren,"  quoth  he,  "*take  keep*  what  I  shall  say;  *heed* 

My  wit  is  great,  though  that  I  bourde*  and  play  *joke,  frolic 

This  treasure  hath  Fortune  unto  us  given 

In  mirth  and  jollity  our  life  to  liven; 

And  lightly  as  it  comes,  so  will  we  spend. 

Hey!  Godde's  precious  dignity!  who  wend*  *weened,  thought 

Today  that  we  should  have  so  fair  a  grace? 

But  might  this  gold  he  carried  from  this  place 

Home  to  my  house,  or  elles  unto  yours 

(For  well  I  wot  that  all  this  gold  is  ours). 

Then  were  we  in  high  felicity. 

But  truely  by  day  it  may  not  be; 

Men  woulde  say  that  we  were  thieves  strong. 

And  for  our  owen  treasure  do  us  hong.*  *have  us  hanged 

This  treasure  muste  carried  be  by  night. 

As  wisely  and  as  slily  as  it  might. 

Wherefore  I  rede,*  that  cut**  among  us  all  *advise  **lots 

We  draw,  and  let  see  where  the  cut  will  fall: 

And  he  that  hath  the  cut,  with  hearte  blithe 

Shall  run  unto  the  town,  and  that  full  swithe,*  *quickly 

And  bring  us  bread  and  wine  full  privily: 

And  two  of  us  shall  keepe  subtilly 

This  treasure  well:  and  if  he  will  not  tarry. 

When  it  is  night,  we  will  this  treasure  carry. 

By  one  assent,  where  as  us  thinketh  best." 

Then  one  of  them  the  cut  brought  in  his  fist. 

And  bade  them  draw,  and  look  where  it  would  fall; 


406 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  it  fell  on  the  youngest  of  them  all; 

And  forth  toward  the  town  he  went  anon. 

And  all  so  soon  as  that  he  was  y-gone, 

The  one  of  them  spake  thus  unto  the  other; 

"Thou  knowest  well  that  thou  art  my  sworn  brother, 

*Thy  profit*  will  I  tell  thee  right  anon.  *what  is  for  thine 

Thou  knowest  well  that  our  fellow  is  gone,  advantage* 

And  here  is  gold,  and  that  full  great  plenty. 

That  shall  departed*  he  among  us  three.  *divided 

But  natheless,  if  I  could  shape*  it  so  *contrive 

That  it  departed  were  among  us  two. 

Had  I  not  done  a  friende's  turn  to  thee?" 

Th'  other  answer'd,  "I  not*  how  that  may  be;  *know  not 

He  knows  well  that  the  gold  is  with  us  tway. 

What  shall  we  do?  what  shall  we  to  him  say?" 

"Shall  it  be  counsel?"*  said  the  firste  shrew;**        *secret  **wretch 

"And  I  shall  tell  to  thee  in  wordes  few 

What  we  shall  do,  and  bring  it  well  about." 

"I  grante,"  quoth  the  other,  "out  of  doubt. 

That  by  my  truth  I  will  thee  not  bewray"*  *betray 

"Now,"  quoth  the  first,  "thou  know'st  well  we  be  tway. 

And  two  of  us  shall  stronger  be  than  one. 

Look;  when  that  he  is  set,*  thou  right  anon  *sat  down 

Arise,  as  though  thou  wouldest  with  him  play; 

And  I  shall  rive*  him  through  the  sides  tway,  *stab 

While  that  thou  strugglest  with  him  as  in  game; 

And  with  thy  dagger  look  thou  do  the  same. 

And  then  shall  all  this  gold  departed*  be,  *divided 

My  deare  friend,  betwixte  thee  and  me: 

Then  may  we  both  our  lustes*  all  fulfil,  *pleasures 

And  play  at  dice  right  at  our  owen  will." 

And  thus  accorded*  be  these  shrewes**  tway  *agreed  **wretches 

To  slay  the  third,  as  ye  have  heard  me  say. 


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407 


The  youngest,  which  that  wente  to  the  town. 

Full  oft  in  heart  he  rolled  up  and  down 

The  beauty  of  these  florins  new  and  bright. 

"O  Lord!"  quoth  he,  "if  so  were  that  I  might 

Have  all  this  treasure  to  myself  alone. 

There  is  no  man  that  lives  under  the  throne 

Of  God,  that  shoulde  have  so  merry  as  L" 

And  at  the  last  the  fiend  our  enemy 

Put  in  his  thought,  that  he  should  poison  buy. 

With  which  he  mighte  slay  his  fellows  twy.*  *two 

For  why,  the  fiend  found  him  *in  such  living,*  *leading  such  a 

That  he  had  leave  to  sorrow  him  to  bring.  (bad)  life* 

For  this  was  utterly  his  full  intent 

To  slay  them  both,  and  never  to  repent. 

And  forth  he  went,  no  longer  would  he  tarry. 

Into  the  town  to  an  apothecary. 

And  prayed  him  that  he  him  woulde  sell 

Some  poison,  that  he  might  *his  rattes  quell,^ 

And  eke  there  was  a  polecat  in  his  haw,* 

That,  as  he  said,  his  eapons  had  y-slaw:* 

And  fain  he  would  him  wreak,*  if  that  he  might. 

Of  vermin  that  destroyed  him  by  night. 

Th'apothecary  answer'd,  "Thou  shalt  have 

A  thing,  as  wisly*  God  my  soule  save. 

In  all  this  world  there  is  no  creature 

That  eat  or  drank  hath  of  this  confecture. 

Not  but  the  mountance*  of  a  corn  of  wheat,  *amount 

That  he  shall  not  his  life  *anon  forlete;*        *immediately  lay  down* 

Yea,  sterve*  he  shall,  and  that  in  lesse  while  *die 

Than  thou  wilt  go  *apace*  nought  but  a  mile:  *quickly* 

This  poison  is  so  strong  and  violent." 

This  cursed  man  hath  in  his  hand  y-hent*  *taken 

This  poison  in  a  box,  and  swift  he  ran 

Into  the  nexte  street,  unto  a  man. 


*kill  his  rats* 

farm-yard,  hedge  <27> 

*slain 

*revenge 


*surely 


408 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  borrow'd  of  him  large  bottles  three; 
And  in  the  two  the  poison  poured  he; 
The  third  he  kepte  clean  for  his  own  drink, 
For  all  the  night  he  shope  him*  for  to  swink*' 
In  carrying  off  the  gold  out  of  that  place. 
And  when  this  riotour,  with  sorry  grace, 
Had  fdl'd  with  wine  his  greate  bottles  three. 


*purposed  **labour 


To  his  fellows  again  repaired  he. 

What  needeth  it  thereof  to  sermon*  more?  *talk,  discourse 

For,  right  as  they  had  cast*  his  death  before,  *plotted 

Right  so  they  have  him  slain,  and  that  anon. 

And  when  that  this  was  done,  thus  spake  the  one; 

"Now  let  us  sit  and  drink,  and  make  us  merry. 

And  afterward  we  will  his  body  bury." 

And  with  that  word  it  happen'd  him  *par  cas*  *by  chance 

To  take  the  bottle  where  the  poison  was. 

And  drank,  and  gave  his  fellow  drink  also. 

For  which  anon  they  sterved*  both  the  two.  *died 

But  certes  I  suppose  that  Avicen 

Wrote  never  in  no  canon,  nor  no  fen,  <28> 

More  wondrous  signes  of  empoisoning. 

Than  had  these  wretches  two  ere  their  ending. 

Thus  ended  be  these  homicides  two. 

And  eke  the  false  empoisoner  also. 


O  cursed  sin,  full  of  all  cursedness! 

O  trait'rous  homicide!  O  wickedness! 

O  glutt'ny,  luxury,  and  hazardry! 

Thou  blasphemer  of  Christ  with  villany,* 

And  oathes  great,  of  usage  and  of  pride! 

Alas!  mankinde,  how  may  it  betide. 

That  to  thy  Creator,  which  that  thee  wrought. 

And  with  his  precious  hearte-blood  thee  bought. 


outrage,  impiety 


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Thou  art  so  false  and  so  unkind,*  alas! 

Now,  good  men,  God  forgive  you  your  trespass. 

And  ware*  you  from  the  sin  of  avarice. 

Mine  holy  pardon  may  you  all  warice,* 

So  that  ye  offer  *nobles  or  sterlings,* 

Or  elles  silver  brooches,  spoons,  or  rings. 

Bowe  your  head  under  this  holy  bull. 

Come  up,  ye  wives,  and  offer  of  your  will; 

Your  names  I  enter  in  my  roll  anon; 

Into  the  bliss  of  heaven  shall  ye  gon; 

I  you  assoil*  by  mine  high  powere. 

You  that  will  offer,  as  clean  and  eke  as  clear 

As  ye  were  born.  Lo,  Sires,  thus  I  preach; 

And  Jesus  Christ,  that  is  our  soules'  leech,* 

So  grante  you  his  pardon  to  receive; 

For  that  is  best,  I  will  not  deceive. 


*unnatural 


*keep 
*heal 
gold  or  silver  coins* 


*absolve  <29> 


*healer 


409 


But,  Sirs,  one  word  forgot  I  in  my  tale; 

I  have  relics  and  pardon  in  my  mail. 

As  fair  as  any  man  in  Engleland, 

Which  were  me  given  by  the  Pope's  hand. 

If  any  of  you  will  of  devotion 

Offer,  and  have  mine  absolution. 

Come  forth  anon,  and  kneele  here  adown 

And  meekely  receive  my  pardoun. 

Or  elles  take  pardon,  as  ye  wend,* 

All  new  and  fresh  at  every  towne's  end. 

So  that  ye  offer,  always  new  and  new. 

Nobles  or  pence  which  that  be  good  and  true. 

Tis  an  honour  to  evereach*  that  is  here. 

That  ye  have  a  suffisant*  pardonere 

T'assoile*  you  in  country  as  ye  ride. 

For  aventures  which  that  may  betide. 

Paraventure  there  may  fall  one  or  two 


> 


*each  one 
*suitable 
*absolve 


410 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Down  of  his  horse,  and  break  his  neck  in  two. 

Look,  what  a  surety  is  it  to  you  all. 

That  I  am  in  your  fellowship  y-fall. 

That  may  assoil*  you  bothe  *more  and  lass,* 

When  that  the  soul  shall  from  the  body  pass. 

I  rede*  that  our  Hoste  shall  begin. 

For  he  is  most  enveloped  in  sin. 

Come  forth.  Sir  Host,  and  offer  first  anon. 

And  thou  shalt  kiss;  the  relics  every  one. 

Yea,  for  a  groat;  unbuckle  anon  thy  purse. 


*ab  solve 
*great  and  small* 
*advise 


"Nay,  nay,"  quoth  he,  "then  have  I  Christe's  curse! 

Let  be,"  quoth  he,  "it  shall  not  be,  *so  the'ch.*      *so  may  I  thrive* 

Thou  wouldest  make  me  kiss  thine  olde  breech. 

And  swear  it  were  a  relic  of  a  saint. 

Though  it  were  with  thy  *fundament  depaint'.*   *stained  by  your  bottom* 

But,  by  the  cross  which  that  Saint  Helen  fand,*  *found  <30> 

I  would  I  had  thy  coilons*  in  mine  hand,  *testicles 

Instead  of  relics,  or  of  sanctuary. 

Let  cut  them  off,  I  will  thee  help  them  carry; 

They  shall  be  shrined  in  a  hogge's  turd." 

The  Pardoner  answered  not  one  word; 

So  wroth  he  was,  no  worde  would  he  say. 


"Now,"  quoth  our  Host,  "I  will  no  longer  play 
With  thee,  nor  with  none  other  angry  man." 
But  right  anon  the  worthy  Knight  began 
(When  that  he  saw  that  all  the  people  lough*), 
"No  more  of  this,  for  it  is  right  enough. 
Sir  Pardoner,  be  merry  and  glad  of  cheer; 
And  ye.  Sir  Host,  that  be  to  me  so  dear, 
I  pray  you  that  ye  kiss  the  Pardoner; 
And,  Pardoner,  I  pray  thee  draw  thee  ner,* 
And  as  we  didde,  let  us  laugh  and  play" 
Anon  they  kiss'd,  and  rode  forth  their  way. 


*laughed 


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411 


'ma^^4 


The  Prologue. 


Our  Host  upon  his  stirrups  stood  anon. 

And  saide;  "Good  men,  hearken  every  one. 

This  was  a  thrifty*  tale  for  the  nones.  *discreet,  profitable 

Sir  Parish  Priest,"  quoth  he,  "for  Godde's  bones. 

Tell  us  a  tale,  as  was  thy  *forword  yore:*  *promise  formerly* 

I  see  well  that  ye  learned  men  in  lore 

Can*  muche  good,  by  Godde's  dignity."  *know 

The  Parson  him  answer 'd,  "Ben'dicite! 

What  ails  the  man,  so  sinfully  to  swear?" 

Our  Host  answer 'd,  "O  Jankin,  be  ye  there? 

Now,  good  men,"  quoth  our  Host,  "hearken  to  me. 

I  smell  a  Lollard  <2>  in  the  wind,"  quoth  he. 

"Abide,  for  Godde's  digne*  passion,  *worthy 

For  we  shall  have  a  predication: 

This  Lollard  here  will  preachen  us  somewhat." 

"Nay,  by  my  father's  soul,  that  shall  he  not, 

Saide  the  Shipman;  "Here  shall  he  not  preach. 

He  shall  no  gospel  glose*  here  nor  teach.  *comment  upon 

We  all  believe  in  the  great  God,"  quoth  he. 

"He  woulde  sowe  some  difficulty. 

Or  springe  cockle  <3>  in  our  cleane  corn. 

And  therefore.  Host,  I  warne  thee  beforn. 


412 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


My  jolly  body  shall  a  tale  tell, 

And  I  shall  clinke  you  so  merry  a  bell, 

That  I  shall  waken  all  this  company; 

But  it  shall  not  be  of  philosophy. 

Nor  of  physic,  nor  termes  quaint  of  law; 

There  is  but  little  Latin  in  my  maw."* 


*belly 


The  Tale. 


A  Merchant  whilom  dwell'd  at  Saint  Denise, 
That  riche  was,  for  which  men  held  him  wise. 
A  wife  he  had  of  excellent  beauty. 
And  *companiable  and  revellous*  was  she. 
Which  is  a  thing  that  causeth  more  dispence 
Than  worth  is  all  the  cheer  and  reverence 
That  men  them  do  at  feastes  and  at  dances. 
Such  salutations  and  countenances 
Passen,  as  doth  the  shadow  on  the  wall; 
Put  woe  is  him  that  paye  must  for  all. 
The  sely*  husband  algate**  he  must  pay. 
He  must  us  <2>  clothe  and  he  must  us  array 
All  for  his  owen  worship  richely: 
In  which  array  we  dance  jollily. 
And  if  that  he  may  not,  paraventure. 
Or  elles  list  not  such  dispence  endure. 
But  thinketh  it  is  wasted  and  y-lost. 
Then  must  another  paye  for  our  cost. 
Or  lend  us  gold,  and  that  is  perilous. 


*fond  of  society  and 
merry  making* 


*innocent  **always 


This  noble  merchant  held  a  noble  house; 
For  which  he  had  all  day  so  great  repair,* 
For  his  largesse,  and  for  his  wife  was  fair. 
That  wonder  is;  but  hearken  to  my  tale. 


*resort  of  visitors 


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413 


*constantly 


*claimed  kindred 
with  him* 


Amonges  all  these  guestes  great  and  smale. 

There  was  a  monk,  a  fair  man  and  a  bold, 

I  trow  a  thirty  winter  he  was  old. 

That  ever-in-one*  was  drawing  to  that  place. 

This  younge  monk,  that  was  so  fair  of  face. 

Acquainted  was  so  with  this  goode  man. 

Since  that  their  firste  knowledge  began. 

That  in  his  house  as  familiar  was  he 

As  it  is  possible  any  friend  to  be. 

And,  for  as  muchel  as  this  goode  man. 

And  eke  this  monk  of  which  that  I  began. 

Were  both  the  two  y-born  in  one  village. 

The  monk  *him  claimed,  as  for  cousinage,* 

And  he  again  him  said  not  once  nay. 

But  was  as  glad  thereof  as  fowl  of  day; 

"For  to  his  heart  it  was  a  great  pleasance. 

Thus  be  they  knit  with  etern'  alliance. 

And  each  of  them  gan  other  to  assure 

Of  brotherhood  while  that  their  life  may  dure. 

Free  was  Dan  <3>  John,  and  namely*  of  dispence,**  *especially  **spending 

As  in  that  house,  and  full  of  diligence 

To  do  pleasance,  and  also  *great  costage;* 

He  not  forgot  to  give  the  leaste  page 

In  all  that  house;  but,  after  their  degree. 

He  gave  the  lord,  and  sithen*  his  meinie,* 

When  that  he  came,  some  manner  honest  thing; 

For  which  they  were  as  glad  of  his  coming 

As  fowl  is  fain  when  that  the  sun  upriseth. 

No  more  of  this  as  now,  for  it  sufficeth. 


*liberal  outlay* 


*afterwards  **servants 


But  so  befell,  this  merchant  on  a  day 
Shope*  him  to  make  ready  his  array 
Toward  the  town  of  Bruges  <4>  for  to  fare. 
To  buye  there  a  portion  of  ware;* 


*resolved,  arranged 


*merchandise 


414 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  which  he  hath  to  Paris  sent  anon 
A  messenger,  and  prayed  hath  Dan  John 
That  he  should  come  to  Saint  Denis,  and  play* 
With  him,  and  with  his  wife,  a  day  or  tway. 
Ere  he  to  Bruges  went,  in  alle  wise. 
This  noble  monk,  of  which  I  you  devise,* 
Had  of  his  abbot,  as  him  list,  licence, 
(Because  he  was  a  man  of  high  prudence. 
And  eke  an  officer  out  for  to  ride. 
To  see  their  granges  and  their  barnes  wide);  <5> 
And  unto  Saint  Denis  he  came  anon. 
Who  was  so  welcome  as  my  lord  Dan  John, 
Our  deare  cousin,  full  of  courtesy? 
With  him  he  brought  a  jub*  of  malvesie. 
And  eke  another  full  of  fme  vernage,  <6> 
And  volatile,*  as  aye  was  his  usage: 
And  thus  I  let  them  eat,  and  drink,  and  play. 
This  merchant  and  this  monk,  a  day  or  tway. 
The  thirde  day  the  merchant  up  ariseth. 
And  on  his  needeis  sadly  him  adviseth; 
And  up  into  his  countour-house*  went  he. 
To  reckon  with  himself  as  well  maybe. 
Of  thilke*  year,  how  that  it  with  him  stood. 
And  how  that  he  dispended  bad  his  good. 
And  if  that  he  increased  were  or  non. 
His  bookes  and  his  bagges  many  a  one 
He  laid  before  him  on  his  counting-board. 
Full  riche  was  his  treasure  and  his  hoard; 
For  which  full  fast  his  countour  door  he  shet; 
And  eke  he  would  that  no  man  should  him  let* 
Of  his  accountes,  for  the  meane  time: 
And  thus  he  sat,  till  it  was  passed  prime. 


*enjoy  himself 


*tell 


jug 


*wild-fowl 


*counting-house  <7> 


*that 


*hinder 


Dan  John  was  risen  in  the  morn  also. 


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415 


*guide 
*rod  <8> 


*early 


*unless  **pallid,  wasted 
*stare 


And  in  the  garden  walked  to  and  fro. 

And  had  his  thinges  said  full  courteously. 

The  good  wife  came  walking  full  privily 

Into  the  garden,  where  he  walked  soft. 

And  him  saluted,  as  she  had  done  oft; 

A  maiden  child  came  in  her  company. 

Which  as  her  list  she  might  govern  and  gie,* 

For  yet  under  the  yarde*  was  the  maid. 

"O  deare  cousin  mine,  Dan  John,"  she  said, 

"What  aileth  you  so  rath*  for  to  arise?" 

"Niece,"  quoth  he,  "it  ought  enough  suffice 

Five  houres  for  to  sleep  upon  a  night;' 

But*  it  were  for  an  old  appalled**  wight. 

As  be  these  wedded  men,  that  lie  and  dare,* 

As  in  a  forme  sits  a  weary  hare, 

Alle  forstraught*  with  houndes  great  and  smale;  *distracted,  confounded 

But,  deare  niece,  why  be  ye  so  pale? 

I  trowe  certes  that  our  goode  man 

Hath  you  so  laboured,  since  this  night  began. 

That  you  were  need  to  reste  hastily." 

And  with  that  word  he  laugh'd  full  merrily. 

And  of  his  owen  thought  he  wax'd  all  red. 

This  faire  wife  gan  for  to  shake  her  head. 

And  saide  thus;  "Yea,  God  wot  all"  quoth  she. 

"Nay,  cousin  mine,  it  stands  not  so  with  me; 

For  by  that  God,  that  gave  me  soul  and  life. 

In  all  the  realm  of  France  is  there  no  wife 

That  lesse  lust  hath  to  that  sorry  play; 

For  I  may  sing  alas  and  well-away! 

That  I  was  born;  but  to  no  wight,"  quoth  she, 

"Dare  I  not  tell  how  that  it  stands  with  me. 

Wherefore  I  think  out  of  this  land  to  wend. 

Or  elles  of  myself  to  make  an  end. 

So  full  am  I  of  dread  and  eke  of  care." 


416 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


This  monk  began  upon  this  wife  to  stare, 

And  said,  "Alas!  my  niece,  God  forbid 

That  ye  for  any  sorrow,  or  any  dread. 

Fordo*  yourself:  but  telle  me  your  grief, 

Paraventure  I  may,  in  your  mischief,* 

Counsel  or  help;  and  therefore  telle  me 

All  your  annoy,  for  it  shall  be  secre. 

For  on  my  portos*  here  I  make  an  oath. 

That  never  in  my  life,  *for  lief  nor  loth,* 

Ne  shall  I  of  no  counsel  you  bewray" 

"The  same  again  to  you,"  quoth  she,  "I  say 

By  God  and  by  this  portos  I  you  swear. 

Though  men  me  woulden  all  in  pieces  tear, 

Ne  shall  I  never,  for*  to  go  to  hell. 

Bewray*  one  word  of  thing  that  ye  me  tell. 

For  no  cousinage,  nor  alliance. 

But  verily  for  love  and  affiance."* 

Thus  be  they  sworn,  and  thereupon  they  kiss'd. 

And  each  of  them  told  other  what  them  list. 

"Cousin,"  quoth  she,  "if  that  I  hadde  space. 

As  I  have  none,  and  namely*  in  this  place. 

Then  would  I  tell  a  legend  of  my  life. 

What  I  have  suffer 'd  since  I  was  a  wife 

With  mine  husband,  all*  be  he  your  cousin. 

"Nay,"  quoth  this  monk,  "by  God  and  Saint  Martin, 

He  is  no  more  cousin  unto  me. 

Than  is  the  leaf  that  hangeth  on  the  tree; 

I  call  him  so,  by  Saint  Denis  of  France, 

To  have  the  more  cause  of  acquaintance 

Of  you,  which  I  have  loved  specially 

Aboven  alle  women  sickerly,* 

This  swear  I  you  *on  my  professioun;* 

Tell  me  your  grief,  lest  that  he  come  adown. 


*destroy 
*distress 


*breviary 
willing  or  unwilling* 


*though  I  should 
*betray 

confidence,  promise 


*specially 


*although 


*surely 
by  my  vows  of  religion 


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And  hasten  you,  and  go  away  anon." 


417 


"My  deare  love,"  quoth  she,  "O  my  Dan  John, 

Full  lieP  were  me  this  counsel  for  to  hide. 

But  out  it  must,  I  may  no  more  abide. 

My  husband  is  to  me  the  worste  man 

That  ever  was  since  that  the  world  began; 

But  since  I  am  a  wife,  it  sits*  not  me 

To  telle  no  wight  of  our  privity. 

Neither  in  bed,  nor  in  none  other  place; 

God  shield*  I  shoulde  tell  it  for  his  grace; 

A  wife  shall  not  say  of  her  husband 

But  all  honour,  as  I  can  understand; 

Save  unto  you  thus  much  I  telle  shall; 

As  help  me  God,  he  is  nought  worth  at  all 

In  no  degree,  the  value  of  a  fly 

But  yet  me  grieveth  most  his  niggardy* 

And  well  ye  wot,  that  women  naturally 

Desire  thinges  six,  as  well  as  I. 

They  woulde  that  their  husbands  shoulde  be 

Hardy,*  and  wise,  and  rich,  and  thereto  free. 

And  buxom*  to  his  wife,  and  fresh  in  bed. 

But,  by  that  ilke*  Lord  that  for  us  bled. 

For  his  honour  myself  for  to  array. 

On  Sunday  next  I  muste  needes  pay 

A  hundred  francs,  or  elles  am  I  lorn.* 

Yet  *were  me  lever*  that  I  were  unborn. 

Than  me  were  done  slander  or  villainy. 

And  if  mine  husband  eke  might  it  espy, 

I  were  but  lost;  and  therefore  I  you  pray. 

Lend  me  this  sum,  or  elles  must  I  dey* 

Dan  John,  I  say,  lend  me  these  hundred  francs; 

Pardie,  I  will  not  faile  you,  *my  thanks,* 

If  that  you  list  to  do  that  I  you  pray; 


*pleasant 


*becomes 


*forbid 


stinginess 


*brave 
*yielding,  obedient 
*same 


*ruined,  undone 
*I  would  rather* 


*die 
'ifl  can  help  it* 


418 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  at  a  certain  day  I  will  you  pay 
And  do  to  you  what  pleasance  and  service 
That  I  may  do,  right  as  you  list  devise. 
And  but*  I  do,  God  take  on  me  vengeance. 
As  foul  as  e'er  had  Ganilion  <9>  of  France." 


*unless 


This  gentle  monk  answer'd  in  this  mannere; 

"Now  truely,  mine  owen  lady  dear, 

I  have,"  quoth  he,  "on  you  so  greate  ruth,*  *pity 

That  I  you  swear,  and  plighte  you  my  truth. 

That  when  your  husband  is  to  Flanders  fare,*  *gone 

I  will  deliver  you  out  of  this  care. 

For  I  will  bringe  you  a  hundred  francs." 

And  with  that  word  he  caught  her  by  the  flanks. 

And  her  embraced  hard,  and  kissed  her  oft. 

"Go  now  your  way,"  quoth  he,  "all  still  and  soft. 

And  let  us  dine  as  soon  as  that  ye  may. 

For  by  my  cylinder*  'tis  prime  of  day;  *portable  sundial 

Go  now,  and  be  as  true  as  I  shall  be  ." 

"Now  elles  God  forbidde.  Sir,"  quoth  she; 

And  forth  she  went,  as  jolly  as  a  pie. 

And  bade  the  cookes  that  they  should  them  hie,*  *make  haste 

So  that  men  mighte  dine,  and  that  anon. 

Up  to  her  husband  is  this  wife  gone. 

And  knocked  at  his  contour  boldely 

*"Qui  est  la?"*  quoth  he.  "Peter!  it  am  I,"  *who  is  there?* 

Quoth  she;  "What,  Sir,  how  longe  all  will  ye  fast? 

How  longe  time  will  ye  reckon  and  cast 

Your  summes,  and  your  bookes,  and  your  things? 

The  devil  have  part  of  all  such  reckonings! 

Ye  have  enough,  pardie,  of  Godde's  sond.*  *sending,  gifts 

Come  down  to-day,  and  let  your  bagges  stond.*  *stand 

Ne  be  ye  not  ashamed,  that  Dan  John 

Shall  fasting  all  this  day  elenge*  gon?  *see  note  <  10> 


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What?  let  us  hear  a  mass,  and  go  we  dine." 

"Wife,"  quoth  this  man,  "little  canst  thou  divine 

The  curious  businesse  that  we  have; 

For  of  us  chapmen,*  all  so  God  me  save. 

And  by  that  lord  that  cleped  is  Saint  Ive, 

Scarcely  amonges  twenty,  ten  shall  thrive 

Continually,  lasting  unto  our  age. 

We  may  well  make  cheer  and  good  visage. 

And  drive  forth  the  world  as  it  may  be. 

And  keepen  our  estate  in  privity. 

Till  we  be  dead,  or  elles  that  we  play 

A  pilgrimage,  or  go  out  of  the  way. 

And  therefore  have  I  great  necessity 

Upon  this  quaint*  world  to  advise**  me. 

For  evermore  must  we  stand  in  dread 

Of  hap  and  fortune  in  our  chapmanhead.* 

To  Flanders  will  I  go  to-morrow  at  day. 

And  come  again  as  soon  as  e'er  I  may: 

For  which,  my  deare  wife,  I  thee  beseek 

As  be  to  every  wight  buxom*  and  meek. 

And  for  to  keep  our  good  be  curious. 

And  honestly  governe  well  our  house. 

Thou  hast  enough,  in  every  manner  wise. 

That  to  a  thrifty  household  may  suffice. 

Thee  lacketh  none  array,  nor  no  vitail; 

Of  silver  in  thy  purse  thou  shalt  not  fail." 


419 


*merchants 


strange  **consider 
*trading 


*beseech 
*civil,  courteous 


And  with  that  word  his  contour  door  he  shet,* 

And  down  he  went;  no  longer  would  he  let;* 

And  hastily  a  mass  was  there  said. 

And  speedily  the  tables  were  laid. 

And  to  the  dinner  faste  they  them  sped. 

And  richely  this  monk  the  chapman  fed. 

And  after  dinner  Dan  John  soberly 


*shut 
*delay,  hinder 


420 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


This  chapman  took  apart,  and  privily 

He  said  him  thus:  "Cousin,  it  standeth  so. 

That,  well  I  see,  to  Bruges  ye  will  go; 

God  and  Saint  Austin  speede  you  and  guide. 

I  pray  you,  cousin,  wisely  that  ye  ride: 

Governe  you  also  of  your  diet 

Attemperly*  and  namely**  in  this  heat.  *moderately 

Betwixt  us  two  needeth  no  *strange  fare;*  *ado,  ceremony* 

Farewell,  cousin,  God  shielde  you  from  care. 

If  any  thing  there  be,  by  day  or  night. 

If  it  lie  in  my  power  and  my  might. 

That  ye  me  will  command  in  anywise. 

It  shall  be  done,  right  as  ye  will  devise. 

But  one  thing  ere  ye  go,  if  it  may  be; 

I  woulde  pray  you  for  to  lend  to  me 

A  hundred  frankes,  for  a  week  or  twy. 

For  certain  beastes  that  I  muste  buy. 

To  store  with  a  place  that  is  ours 

(God  help  me  so,  I  would  that  it  were  yours); 

I  shall  not  faile  surely  of  my  day. 

Not  for  a  thousand  francs,  a  mile  way. 

But  let  this  thing  be  secret,  I  you  pray; 

For  yet  to-night  these  beastes  must  I  buy. 

And  fare  now  well,  mine  owen  cousin  dear; 

*Grand  mercy*  of  your  cost  and  of  your  cheer."  *great  thanks* 


This  noble  merchant  gentilly*  anon  *like  a  gentleman 

Answer 'd  and  said,  "O  cousin  mine,  Dan  John, 
Now  sickerly  this  is  a  small  request: 
My  gold  is  youres,  when  that  it  you  lest. 

And  not  only  my  gold,  but  my  chaffare;*  *merchandise 

Take  what  you  list,  *God  shielde  that  ye  spare.*     *God  forbid  that  you 
But  one  thing  is,  ye  know  it  well  enow  should  take  too  little* 

Of  chapmen,  that  their  money  is  their  plough. 


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We  may  creance*  while  we  have  a  name. 
But  goldless  for  to  be  it  is  no  game. 
Pay  it  again  when  it  lies  in  your  ease; 
After  my  might  full  fain  would  I  you  please." 


421 


*obtain  credit 


These  hundred  frankes  set  he  forth  anon. 

And  privily  he  took  them  to  Dan  John; 

No  wight  in  all  this  world  wist  of  this  loan. 

Saving  the  merchant  and  Dan  John  alone. 

They  drink,  and  speak,  and  roam  a  while,  and  play. 

Till  that  Dan  John  rode  unto  his  abbay. 

The  morrow  came,  and  forth  this  merchant  rideth 

To  Flanders-ward,  his  prentice  well  him  guideth. 

Till  he  came  unto  Bruges  merrily. 

Now  went  this  merchant  fast  and  busily 

About  his  need,  and  buyed  and  creanced;* 

He  neither  played  at  the  dice,  nor  danced; 

But  as  a  merchant,  shortly  for  to  tell. 

He  led  his  life;  and  there  I  let  him  dwell. 


*got  credit 


The  Sunday  next*  the  merchant  was  y-gone,  *after 

To  Saint  Denis  y-comen  is  Dan  John, 

With  crown  and  beard  all  fresh  and  newly  shave. 

In  all  the  house  was  not  so  little  a  knave,*  *servant-boy 

Nor  no  wight  elles  that  was  not  full  fain 

For  that  my  lord  Dan  John  was  come  again. 

And  shortly  to  the  point  right  for  to  gon. 

The  faire  wife  accorded  with  Dan  John, 

That  for  these  hundred  francs  he  should  all  night 

Have  her  in  his  armes  bolt  upright; 

And  this  accord  performed  was  in  deed. 

In  mirth  all  night  a  busy  life  they  lead. 

Till  it  was  day,  that  Dan  John  went  his  way. 

And  bade  the  meinie*  "Farewell;  have  good  day."  *servants 


422 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  none  of  them,  nor  no  wight  in  the  town, 
Had  of  Dan  John  right  no  suspicioun; 
And  forth  he  rode  home  to  his  abbay. 
Or  where  him  list;  no  more  of  him  I  say. 

The  merchant,  when  that  ended  was  the  fair. 

To  Saint  Denis  he  gan  for  to  repair. 

And  with  his  wife  he  made  feast  and  cheer. 

And  tolde  her  that  chaffare*  was  so  dear. 

That  needes  must  he  make  a  chevisance;* 

For  he  was  bound  in  a  recognisance 

To  paye  twenty  thousand  shields*  anon. 

For  which  this  merchant  is  to  Paris  gone. 

To  borrow  of  certain  friendes  that  he  had 

A  certain  francs,  and  some  with  him  he  lad.* 

And  when  that  he  was  come  into  the  town. 

For  great  cherte*  and  great  affectioun 

Unto  Dan  John  he  wente  first  to  play; 

Not  for  to  borrow  of  him  no  money. 

Bat  for  to  weet*  and  see  of  his  welfare. 

And  for  to  telle  him  of  his  chaffare. 

As  friendes  do,  when  they  be  met  in  fere.* 

Dan  John  him  made  feast  and  merry  cheer; 

And  he  him  told  again  full  specially. 

How  he  had  well  y-b ought  and  graciously 

(Thanked  be  God)  all  whole  his  merchandise; 

Save  that  he  must,  in  alle  manner  wise, 

Maken  a  chevisance,  as  for  his  best; 

And  then  he  shoulde  be  in  joy  and  rest. 

Dan  John  answered,  "Certes,  I  am  fain* 

That  ye  in  health  be  come  borne  again: 

And  if  that  I  were  rich,  as  have  I  bliss. 

Of  twenty  thousand  shields  should  ye  not  miss. 

For  ye  so  kindely  the  other  day 


*merchandise 
*loan  <11> 

*crowns,  ecus 

*took 
*love 

*know 
*company 


*glad 


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Lente  me  gold,  and  as  I  can  and  may 

I  thanke  you,  by  God  and  by  Saint  Jame. 

But  natheless  I  took  unto  our  Dame, 

Your  wife  at  home,  the  same  gold  again. 

Upon  your  bench;  she  wot  it  well,  certain. 

By  certain  tokens  that  I  can  her  tell 

Now,  by  your  leave,  I  may  no  longer  dwell; 

Our  abbot  will  out  of  this  town  anon. 

And  in  his  company  I  muste  gon. 

Greet  well  our  Dame,  mine  owen  niece  sweet. 

And  farewell,  deare  cousin,  till  we  meet. 


423 


This  merchant,  which  that  was  full  ware  and  wise. 


*Creanced  hath,*  and  paid  eke  in  Paris 
To  certain  Lombards  ready  in  their  bond 
The  sum  of  gold,  and  got  of  them  his  bond. 
And  home  he  went,  merry  as  a  popinjay* 
For  well  he  knew  he  stood  in  such  array 
That  needes  must  he  win  in  that  voyage 
A  thousand  francs,  above  all  his  costage.* 
His  wife  full  ready  met  him  at  the  gate. 
As  she  was  wont  of  old  usage  algate* 
And  all  that  night  in  mirthe  they  beset;* 
For  he  was  rich,  and  clearly  out  of  debt. 
When  it  was  day,  the  merchant  gan  embrace 
His  wife  all  new,  and  kiss'd  her  in  her  face. 
And  up  he  went,  and  maked  it  full  tough. 


"No  more,"  quoth  she,  "by  God  ye  have  enough;" 
And  wantonly  again  with  him  she  play'd. 
Till  at  the  last  this  merchant  to  her  said. 
"By  God,"  quoth  he,  "I  am  a  little  wroth 
With  you,  my  wife,  although  it  be  me  loth; 
And  wot  ye  why?  by  God,  as  that  I  guess. 


*had  obtained  credit* 


parrot 


expenses 

*always 
*spent 


424 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  ye  have  made  a  *manner  strangeness* 
Betwixte  me  and  my  cousin,  Dan  John. 
Ye  should  have  warned  me,  ere  I  had  gone. 
That  he  you  had  a  hundred  frankes  paid 
By  ready  token;  he  *had  him  evil  apaid* 
For  that  I  to  him  spake  of  chevisance,* 
(He  seemed  so  as  by  his  countenance); 
But  natheless,  by  God  of  heaven  king, 
I  thoughte  not  to  ask  of  him  no  thing. 
I  pray  thee,  wife,  do  thou  no  more  so. 
Tell  me  alway,  ere  that  I  from  thee  go. 
If  any  debtor  hath  in  mine  absence 
Y-payed  thee,  lest  through  thy  negligence 
I  might  him  ask  a  thing  that  he  hath  paid." 


*a  kind  of  estrangement* 


*was  displeased* 
*borrowing 


This  wife  was  not  afeared  nor  afraid. 

But  boldely  she  said,  and  that  anon; 

"Mary!  I  defy  that  false  monk  Dan  John, 

I  keep*  not  of  his  tokens  never  a  deal:** 

He  took  me  certain  gold,  I  wot  it  well.  — 

What?  evil  thedom*  on  his  monke's  snout!  — 

For,  God  it  wot,  I  ween'd  withoute  doubt 

That  he  had  given  it  me,  because  of  you. 

To  do  therewith  mine  honour  and  my  prow,* 

For  cousinage,  and  eke  for  belle  cheer 

That  he  hath  had  full  often  here. 

But  since  I  see  I  stand  in  such  disjoint,* 

I  will  answer  you  shortly  to  the  point. 

Ye  have  more  slacke  debtors  than  am  I; 

For  I  will  pay  you  well  and  readily. 

From  day  to  day,  and  if  so  be  I  fail, 

I  am  your  wife,  score  it  upon  my  tail. 

And  I  shall  pay  as  soon  as  ever  I  may. 

For,  by  my  troth,  I  have  on  mine  array. 


*whit 


*thriving 


*profit 


^awkward  position 


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And  not  in  waste,  bestow'd  it  every  deal. 

And,  for  I  have  bestowed  it  so  well. 

For  your  honour,  for  Godde's  sake  I  say. 

As  be  not  wroth,  but  let  us  laugh  and  play. 

Ye  shall  my  jolly  body  have  *to  wed;*  *in  pledge* 

By  God,  I  will  not  pay  you  but  in  bed; 

Forgive  it  me,  mine  owen  spouse  dear; 

Turn  hitherward,  and  make  better  cheer." 


425 


The  merchant  saw  none  other  remedy; 

And  for  to  chide,  it  were  but  a  folly. 

Since  that  the  thing  might  not  amended  be. 

"Now,  wife,"  he  said,  "and  I  forgive  it  thee; 

But  by  thy  life  be  no  more  so  large;*  *liberal,  lavish 

Keep  better  my  good,  this  give  I  thee  in  charge." 

Thus  endeth  now  my  tale;  and  God  us  send 

Taling  enough,  until  our  lives'  end! 


426 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


me  &'d(pye^  i  I:yak. 


The  Prologue. 


"WELL  said,  by  *corpus  Domini,"*  quoth  our  Host;       *the  Lord's  body* 

"Now  longe  may'st  thou  saile  by  the  coast. 

Thou  gentle  Master,  gentle  Marinere. 

God  give  the  monk  *a  thousand  last  quad  year!*    *ever  so  much  evil*  <  1  > 

Aha!  fellows,  beware  of  such  a  jape.*  *trick 

The  monk  *put  in  the  manne's  hood  an  ape,*  *fooled  him* 

And  in  his  wife's  eke,  by  Saint  Austin. 

Drawe  no  monkes  more  into  your  inn. 

But  now  pass  over,  and  let  us  seek  about. 

Who  shall  now  telle  first  of  all  this  rout 

Another  tale;"  and  with  that  word  he  said. 

As  courteously  as  it  had  been  a  maid; 

"My  Lady  Prioresse,  by  your  leave. 

So  that  I  wist  I  shoulde  you  not  grieve,*  *offend 

I  woulde  deeme*  that  ye  telle  should  *judge,  decide 

A  tale  next,  if  so  were  that  ye  would. 

Now  will  ye  vouchesafe,  my  lady  dear?" 

"Gladly,"  quoth  she;  and  said  as  ye  shall  hear. 


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The  Tale. 


All 


O  Lord  our  Lord!  thy  name  how  marvellous 

Is  in  this  large  world  y-spread!  <2>  (quoth  she) 

For  not  only  thy  laude*  precious  *praise 

Performed  is  by  men  of  high  degree. 

But  by  the  mouth  of  children  thy  bounte*  *goodness 

Performed  is,  for  on  the  breast  sucking 

Sometimes  showe  they  thy  herying.*  <3>  *glory 


Wherefore  in  laud,  as  I  best  can  or  may 
Of  thee,  and  of  the  white  lily  flow'r 
Which  that  thee  bare,  and  is  a  maid  alway. 
To  tell  a  story  I  will  do  my  labour; 
Not  that  I  may  increase  her  honour. 
For  she  herselven  is  honour  and  root 
Of  bounte,  next  her  son,  and  soules'  boot.* 


*help 


O  mother  maid,  O  maid  and  mother  free!*  *bounteous 

O  bush  unburnt,  burning  in  Moses'  sight. 

That  ravished'st  down  from  the  deity. 

Through  thy  humbless,  the  ghost  that  in  thee  light;  <4> 

Of  whose  virtue,  when  he  thine  hearte  light,*      *lightened,  gladdened 

Conceived  was  the  Father's  sapience; 

Help  me  to  tell  it  to  thy  reverence. 


Lady!  thy  bounty,  thy  magnificence. 

Thy  virtue,  and  thy  great  humility. 

There  may  no  tongue  express  in  no  science: 

For  sometimes.  Lady!  ere  men  pray  to  thee. 

Thou  go'st  before,  of  thy  benignity. 

And  gettest  us  the  light,  through  thy  prayere. 

To  gulden  us  unto  thy  son  so  dear. 


428 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


My  conning*  is  so  weak,  O  blissful  queen,  *skill,  ability 

For  to  declare  thy  great  worthiness. 

That  I  not  may  the  weight  of  it  sustene; 

But  as  a  child  of  twelvemonth  old,  or  less. 

That  can  unnethes*  any  word  express,  *scarcely 

Right  so  fare  I;  and  therefore,  I  you  pray. 

Guide  my  song  that  I  shall  of  you  say 


There  was  in  Asia,  in  a  great  city, 

Amonges  Christian  folk,  a  Jewery,<5> 

Sustained  by  a  lord  of  that  country. 

For  foul  usure,  and  lucre  of  villainy. 

Hateful  to  Christ,  and  to  his  company; 

And  through  the  street  men  mighte  ride  and  wend,* 

For  it  was  free,  and  open  at  each  end. 


*go,  walk 


A  little  school  of  Christian  folk  there  stood 
Down  at  the  farther  end,  in  which  there  were 
Children  an  heap  y-come  of  Christian  blood. 
That  learned  in  that  schoole  year  by  year 
Such  manner  doctrine  as  men  used  there; 
This  is  to  say,  to  singen  and  to  read. 
As  smalle  children  do  in  their  childhead. 

Among  these  children  was  a  widow's  son, 

A  little  clergion,*  seven  year  of  age,  *young  clerk  or  scholar 

That  day  by  day  to  scholay*  was  his  won,**  *study  **wont 

And  eke  also,  whereso  he  saw  th'  image 

Of  Christe's  mother,  had  he  in  usage. 

As  him  was  taught,  to  kneel  adown,  and  say 

Ave  Maria  as  he  went  by  the  way 


Thus  had  this  widow  her  little  son  y-taught 
Our  blissful  Lady,  Christe's  mother  dear. 


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429 


To  worship  aye,  and  he  forgot  it  not; 
For  sely*  child  will  always  soone  lean**  " 

But  aye  when  I  remember  on  this  mattere. 
Saint  Nicholas  <6>  stands  ever  in  my  presence; 
For  he  so  young  to  Christ  did  reverence. 


innocent  **learn 


This  little  child  his  little  book  learning. 
As  he  sat  in  the  school  at  his  primere. 
He  Alma  redemptoris  <7>  hearde  sing. 
As  children  learned  their  antiphonere;  <8> 
And  as  he  durst,  he  drew  him  nere  and  nere,* 
And  hearken'd  aye  the  wordes  and  the  note. 
Till  he  the  firste  verse  knew  all  by  rote. 


Nought  wist  he  what  this  Latin  was  tosay,* 
For  he  so  young  and  tender  was  of  age; 
But  on  a  day  his  fellow  gan  he  pray 
To  expound  him  this  song  in  his  language. 
Or  tell  him  why  this  song  was  in  usage: 
This  pray'd  he  him  to  construe  and  declare. 
Full  oftentime  upon  his  knees  bare. 


meant 


His  fellow,  which  that  elder  was  than  he, 

Answer'd  him  thus:  "This  song,  I  have  heard  say. 

Was  maked  of  our  blissful  Lady  free. 

Her  to  salute,  and  eke  her  to  pray 

To  be  our  help  and  succour  when  we  dey* 

I  can  no  more  expound  in  this  mattere: 

I  learne  song,  I  know  but  small  grammere." 


*die 


"And  is  this  song  y-made  in  reverence 
Of  Christe's  mother?"  said  this  innocent; 
Now  certes  I  will  do  my  diligence 
To  conne*  it  all,  ere  Christemas  be  went; 


*learn;  con 


430 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Though  that  I  for  my  primer  shall  be  shent,* 
And  shall  be  beaten  thries  in  an  hour, 
I  will  it  conne,  our  Lady  to  honour." 


*disgraced 


His  fellow  taught  him  homeward*  privily 

From  day  to  day,  till  he  coud*  it  by  rote. 

And  then  he  sang  it  well  and  boldely 

From  word  to  word  according  with  the  note; 

Twice  in  a  day  it  passed  through  his  throat; 

To  schoole-ward,  and  homeward  when  he  went; 

On  Christ's  mother  was  set  all  his  intent. 


*on  the  way  home 
*knew 


As  I  have  said,  throughout  the  Jewery, 

This  little  child,  as  he  came  to  and  fro. 

Full  merrily  then  would  he  sing  and  cry, 

O  Alma  redemptoris,  evermo'; 

The  sweetness  hath  his  hearte  pierced  so 

Of  Christe's  mother,  that  to  her  to  pray 

He  cannot  stint*  of  singing  by  the  way.  *cease 

Our  firste  foe,  the  serpent  Satanas, 

That  hath  in  Jewes'  heart  his  waspe's  nest, 

Upswell'd  and  said,"0  Hebrew  people,  alas! 

Is  this  to  you  a  thing  that  is  honest,*  *creditable,  becoming 

That  such  a  boy  shall  walken  as  him  lest 

In  your  despite,  and  sing  of  such  sentence. 

Which  is  against  your  lawe's  reverence?" 


From  thenceforth  the  Jewes  have  conspired 

This  innocent  out  of  the  world  to  chase; 

A  homicide  thereto  have  they  hired. 

That  in  an  alley  had  a  privy  place. 

And,  as  the  child  gan  forth  by  for  to  pace. 

This  cursed  Jew  him  hent,*  and  held  him  fast 


*seized 


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And  cut  his  throat,  and  in  a  pit  him  cast. 


431 


I  say  that  in  a  wardrobe*  he  him  threw,  *privy 

Where  as  the  Jewes  purged  their  entrail. 

O  cursed  folk!  O  Herodes  all  new! 

What  may  your  evil  intente  you  avail? 

Murder  will  out,  certain  it  will  not  fail. 

And  namely*  where  th'  honour  of  God  shall  spread;  *especially 

The  blood  out  crieth  on  your  cursed  deed. 


*continually 


O  martyr  souded*  to  virginity,  *confirmed  <9> 

Now  may  St  thou  sing,  and  follow  ever-in-one* 

The  white  Lamb  celestial  (quoth  she). 

Of  which  the  great  Evangelist  Saint  John 

In  Patmos  wrote,  which  saith  that  they  that  gon 

Before  this  Lamb,  and  sing  a  song  all  new. 

That  never  fleshly  woman  they  ne  knew.  <  10  > 


This  poore  widow  waited  all  that  night 
After  her  little  child,  but  he  came  not; 
For  which,  as  soon  as  it  was  daye's  light. 
With  face  pale,  in  dread  and  busy  thought. 
She  hath  at  school  and  elleswhere  him  sought. 
Till  fmally  she  gan  so  far  espy. 
That  he  was  last  seen  in  the  Jewery. 


With  mother's  pity  in  her  breast  enclosed. 
She  went,  as  she  were  half  out  of  her  mind. 
To  every  place,  where  she  hath  supposed 
By  likelihood  her  little  child  to  fmd: 
And  ever  on  Christ's  mother  meek  and  kind 
She  cried,  and  at  the  laste  thus  she  wrought. 
Among  the  cursed  Jewes  she  him  sought. 


432 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


She  freined,*  and  she  prayed  piteously  *asked*  <  1 1  > 

To  every  Jew  that  dwelled  in  that  place, 

To  tell  her,  if  her  childe  went  thereby; 

They  saide,  "Nay;"  but  Jesus  of  his  grace 

Gave  in  her  thought,  within  a  little  space. 

That  in  that  place  after  her  son  she  cried. 

Where  he  was  cast  into  a  pit  beside. 

O  greate  God,  that  preformest  thy  laud 

By  mouth  of  innocents,  lo  here  thy  might! 

This  gem  of  chastity,  this  emeraud,*  *emerald 

And  eke  of  martyrdom  the  ruby  bright. 

Where  he  with  throat  y-carven*  lay  upright,  *cut 

He  Alma  Redemptoris  gan  to  sing 

So  loud,  that  all  the  place  began  to  ring. 

The  Christian  folk,  that  through  the  streete  went. 

In  came,  for  to  wonder  on  this  thing: 

And  hastily  they  for  the  provost  sent. 

He  came  anon  withoute  tarrying. 

And  heried*  Christ,  that  is  of  heaven  king,  *praised 

And  eke  his  mother,  honour  of  mankind; 

And  after  that  the  Jewes  let*  he  bind.  *caused 

With  torment,  and  with  shameful  death  each  one 

The  provost  did*  these  Jewes  for  to  sterve**  *caused  **die 

That  of  this  murder  wist,  and  that  anon; 

He  woulde  no  such  cursedness  observe*  *overlook 

Evil  shall  have  that  evil  will  deserve; 

Therefore  with  horses  wild  he  did  them  draw. 

And  after  that  he  hung  them  by  the  law. 

The  child,  with  piteous  lamentation. 
Was  taken  up,  singing  his  song  alway: 


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And  with  honour  and  great  procession. 
They  crry  him  unto  the  next  abbay. 
His  mother  swooning  by  the  biere  lay; 
Unnethes*  might  the  people  that  were  there 
This  newe  Rachel  bringe  from  his  bier. 


433 


Upon  his  biere  lay  this  innocent 

Before  the  altar  while  the  masses  last';* 

And,  after  that,  th'  abbot  with  his  convent 

Have  sped  them  for  to  bury  him  full  fast; 

And  when  they  holy  water  on  him  cast. 

Yet  spake  this  child,  when  sprinkled  was  the  water. 

And  sang,  O  Alma  redemptoris  mater! 

This  abbot,  which  that  was  a  holy  man. 

As  monkes  be,  or  elles  ought  to  be. 

This  younger  child  to  conjure  he  began. 

And  said;  "O  deare  child!  I  halse*  thee. 

In  virtue  of  the  holy  Trinity; 

Tell  me  what  is  thy  cause  for  to  sing. 

Since  that  thy  throat  is  cut,  to  my  seeming." 


*scarcely 


*lasted 


*implore  <12> 


"My  throat  is  cut  unto  my  necke-bone," 
Saide  this  child,  "and,  as  *by  way  of  kind,* 
I  should  have  died,  yea  long  time  agone; 
But  Jesus  Christ,  as  ye  in  bookes  fmd. 
Will  that  his  glory  last  and  be  in  mind; 
And,  for  the  worship*  of  his  mother  dear. 
Yet  may  I  sing  O  Alma  loud  and  clear. 

"This  well*  of  mercy,  Christe's  mother  sweet, 
I  loved  alway,  after  my  conning:* 
And  when  that  I  my  life  should  forlete,* 
To  me  she  came,  and  bade  me  for  to  sing 


*in  course  of  nature* 


*glory 


*fountain 
*knowledge 
*leave 


434 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


This  anthem  verily  in  my  dying, 

As  ye  have  heard;  and,  when  that  I  had  sung. 

Me  thought  she  laid  a  grain  upon  my  tongue. 

"Wherefore  I  sing,  and  sing  I  must  certain. 
In  honour  of  that  blissful  maiden  free. 
Till  from  my  tongue  off  taken  is  the  grain. 
And  after  that  thus  saide  she  to  me; 
'My  little  child,  then  will  I  fetche  thee. 
When  that  the  grain  is  from  thy  tongue  take: 
Be  not  aghast,*  I  will  thee  not  forsake.'" 


*afraid 


This  holy  monk,  this  abbot  him  mean  I, 

His  tongue  out  caught,  and  took  away  the  grain; 

And  he  gave  up  the  ghost  full  softely. 

And  when  this  abbot  had  this  wonder  seen. 

His  sake  teares  trickled  down  as  rain: 

And  grofP  he  fell  all  flat  upon  the  ground,       *prostrate,  grovelling 

And  still  he  lay,  as  he  had  been  y-bound. 


The  convent*  lay  eke  on  the  pavement 
Weeping,  and  herying*  Christ's  mother  dear. 
And  after  that  they  rose,  and  forth  they  went. 
And  took  away  this  martyr  from  his  bier. 
And  in  a  tomb  of  marble  stones  clear 
Enclosed  they  his  little  body  sweet; 
Where  he  is  now,  God  lene*  us  for  to  meet. 

O  younge  Hugh  of  Lincoln!  <  13  >  slain  also 
With  cursed  Jewes,  —  as  it  is  notable. 
For  it  is  but  a  little  while  ago,  — 
Pray  eke  for  us,  we  sinful  folk  unstable. 
That,  of  his  mercy,  God  so  merciable* 
On  us  his  greate  mercy  multiply. 
For  reverence  of  his  mother  Mary. 


*all  the  monks 
*praising 


grant 


:iful 


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435 


6iee9^4  lya/eof(pfl^  ^/ix^baA. 


The  Prologue. 

WHEN  said  was  this  miracle,  every  man 

As  sober*  was,  that  wonder  was  to  see,  *serious 

Till  that  our  Host  to  japen*  he  began,  *talk  lightly 

And  then  *at  erst*  he  looked  upon  me,  *for  the  first  time* 

And  saide  thus;  "What  man  art  thou?"  quoth  he; 

"Thou  lookest  as  thou  wouldest  find  an  hare. 

For  ever  on  the  ground  I  see  thee  stare. 

"Approache  near,  and  look  up  merrily. 

Now  ware  you.  Sirs,  and  let  this  man  have  place. 

He  in  the  waist  is  shapen  as  well  as  I;  <2> 

This  were  a  puppet  in  an  arm  t'embrace 

For  any  woman  small  and  fair  of  face. 


He  seemeth  elvish*  by  his  countenance. 
For  unto  no  wight  doth  he  dalliance. 

"Say  now  somewhat,  since  other  folk  have  said; 

Tell  us  a  tale  of  mirth,  and  that  anon." 

"Hoste,"  quoth  I,  "be  not  evil  apaid,* 

For  other  tale  certes  can*  I  none, 

Eut  of  a  rhyme  I  learned  yore*  agone." 

"Yea,  that  is  good,"  quoth  he;  "now  shall  we  hear 

Some  dainty  thing,  me  thinketh  by  thy  cheer."* 


*surly,  morose 


*dissatisfied 
*know 
*long 

*expression,  mien 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Tale. 


The  First  Fit* 

Listen,  lordings,  in  good  intent, 
And  I  will  tell  you  verrament* 
Of  mirth  and  of  solas,* 
All  of  a  knight  was  fair  and  gent,* 
In  battle  and  in  tournament. 
His  name  was  SirThopas. 

Y-born  he  was  in  far  country. 
In  Flanders,  all  beyond  the  sea. 
At  Popering  <2>  in  the  place; 
His  father  was  a  man  full  free. 
And  lord  he  was  of  that  country. 
As  it  was  Godde's  grace.  <3> 

SirThopas  was  a  doughty  swain. 

White  was  his  face  as  paindemain,  <4> 

His  lippes  red  as  rose. 

His  rode*  is  like  scarlet  in  grain. 

And  I  you  tell  in  good  certain 

He  had  a  seemly  nose. 

His  hair,  his  beard,  was  like  saffroun. 
That  to  his  girdle  reach'd  adown. 
His  shoes  of  cordewane:<5> 
Of  Bruges  were  his  hosen  brown; 
His  robe  was  of  ciclatoun,<6> 
That  coste  many  a  j ane.  <  7 > 

He  coulde  hunt  at  the  wild  deer. 
And  ride  on  hawking  *for  rivere* 


"part 


*truly 
*delight,  solace 
*gentle 


*complexion 


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With  gray  goshawk  on  hand:  <  8  > 
Thereto  he  was  a  good  archere. 
Of  wrestling  was  there  none  his  peer. 
Where  any  ram  <9>  should  stand. 


Full  many  a  maiden  bright  in  bow'r 
They  mourned  for  him  par  amour. 
When  them  were  better  sleep; 
But  he  was  chaste,  and  no  lechour. 
And  sweet  as  is  the  bramble  flow'r 
That  beareth  the  red  heep.* 


437 


*by  the  river* 


And  so  it  fell  upon  a  day. 
For  sooth  as  I  you  telle  may, 
SirThopas  would  out  ride; 
He  worth*  upon  his  steede  gray. 
And  in  his  hand  a  launcegay,* 
A  long  sword  by  his  side. 

He  pricked  through  a  fair  forest. 
Wherein  is  many  a  wilde  beast. 
Yea,  bothe  buck  and  hare; 
And  as  he  pricked  north  and  east, 
I  tell  it  you,  him  had  almest 
Betid*  a  sorry  care. 

There  sprange  herbes  great  and  small. 
The  liquorice  and  the  setewall,* 
And  many  a  clove-gilofre,  <12> 
And  nutemeg  to  put  in  ale. 
Whether  it  be  moist*  or  stale. 
Or  for  to  lay  in  coffer. 

The  birdes  sang,  it  is  no  nay. 


lip 


*mounted 
*spear  <10> 


*almost 
*befallen 


*valerian 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  sperhawk*  and  the  popinjay,** 
That  joy  it  was  to  hear; 
The  throstle-cock  made  eke  his  lay, 
The  woode-dove  upon  the  spray 
She  sang  full  loud  and  clear. 


*sparrowhawk  **parrot  <13> 


SirThopas  fell  in  love-longing 

All  when  he  heard  the  throstle  sing. 

And  *prick'd  as  he  were  wood;* 

His  faire  steed  in  his  pricking 

So  sweated,  that  men  might  him  wring. 

His  sides  were  all  blood. 


*rode  as  if  he 
were  mad* 


SirThopas  eke  so  weary  was 

For  pricking  on  the  softe  grass. 

So  fierce  was  his  corage,* 

That  down  he  laid  him  in  that  place. 

To  make  his  steed  some  solace. 

And  gave  him  good  forage. 


mclination,  spirit 


"Ah,  Saint  Mary,  ben'dicite. 
What  aileth  thilke*  love  at  me 
To  binde  me  so  sore? 
Me  dreamed  all  this  night,  pardie. 
An  elf-queen  shall  my  leman*  be. 
And  sleep  under  my  gore.* 


*this 


mistress 
*shirt 


An  elf-queen  will  I  love,  y-wis,* 

For  in  this  world  no  woman  is 

Worthy  to  be  my  make* 

In  town; 

All  other  women  I  forsake. 

And  to  an  elf-queen  I  me  take 

By  dale  and  eke  by  down."  <  14> 


*assuredly 


"mate 


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439 


Into  his  saddle  he  clomb  anon. 

And  pricked  over  stile  and  stone 

An  elf-queen  for  to  spy. 

Till  he  so  long  had  ridden  and  gone. 

That  he  found  in  a  privy  wonne* 

The  country  of  Faery, 

So  wild; 

For  in  that  country  was  there  none 

That  to  him  durste  ride  or  gon. 

Neither  wife  nor  child. 


*haunt 


Till  that  there  came  a  great  giaunt. 

His  name  was  Sir  01iphaunt,<15> 

A  perilous  man  of  deed; 

He  saide,  "Child,*  by  Termagaunt,  <16> 

*But  iP  thou  prick  out  of  mine  haunt. 

Anon  I  slay  thy  steed 

With  mace. 

Here  is  the  Queen  of  Faery, 

With  harp,  and  pipe,  and  symphony. 

Dwelling  in  this  place." 


young  man 
*unless 


The  Child  said,  "All  so  may  I  the,* 

To-morrow  will  I  meete  thee. 

When  I  have  mine  armor; 

And  yet  I  hope,  *par  ma  fay,* 

That  thou  shalt  with  this  launcegay 

Abyen*  it  full  sore; 

Thy  maw* 

Shall  I  pierce,  if  I  may. 

Ere  it  be  fully  prime  of  day. 

For  here  thou  shalt  be  slaw"* 


*thrive 


*by  my  faith* 

*suffer  for 
*belly 


*slain 


440 


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441 


Sir  Thopas  drew  aback  full  fast; 

This  giant  at  him  stones  cast 

Out  of  a  fell  staff  sling: 

But  fair  escaped  Child  Thopas, 

And  all  it  was  through  Godde's  grace, 

And  through  his  fair  bearing.  <  17> 

Yet  listen,  lordings,  to  my  tale. 

Merrier  than  the  nightingale. 

For  now  I  will  you  rown,* 

How  Sir  Thopas,  with  sides  smale,* 

Pricking  over  hill  and  dale. 

Is  come  again  to  town. 

His  merry  men  commanded  he 
To  make  him  both  game  and  glee; 
For  needes  must  he  fight 
With  a  giant  with  heades  three. 
For  paramour  and  jollity 
Of  one  that  shone  full  bright. 

"*Do  come,*"  he  saide,  "my  minstrales 

And  gestours*  for  to  telle  tales. 

Anon  in  mine  arming. 

Of  romances  that  be  royales,  <19> 

Of  popes  and  of  cardinales. 

And  eke  of  love-longing." 

They  fetch'd  him  first  the  sweete  wine. 
And  mead  eke  in  a  maseline,* 
And  royal  spicery; 
Of  ginger-bread  that  was  full  fine. 
And  liquorice  and  eke  cumin. 
With  sugar  that  is  trie.* 


*whisper 
*small<18> 


*story-tellers 


*drinking-bowl 
of  maple  wood  <20> 


*refined 


He  didde,*  next  his  white  lere,** 
Of  cloth  of  lake*  fine  and  clear, 
A  breech  and  eke  a  shirt; 
And  next  his  shirt  an  haketon,* 
And  over  that  an  habergeon,* 
For  piercing  of  his  heart; 

And  over  that  a  fine  hauberk,* 
Was  all  y-wrought  of  Jewes'*  werk. 
Full  strong  it  was  of  plate; 
And  over  that  his  coat-armour,* 
As  white  as  is  the  lily  flow'r,  <21  > 
In  which  he  would  debate.* 

His  shield  was  all  of  gold  so  red 
And  therein  was  a  boare's  head, 
A  charboucle*  beside; 
And  there  he  swore  on  ale  and  bread. 
How  that  the  giant  should  be  dead. 
Betide  whatso  betide. 

His  jambeaux*  were  of  cuirbouly,  <23> 

His  sworde's  sheath  of  ivory. 

His  helm  of  latoun*  bright. 

His  saddle  was  of  rewel  <24>  bone. 

His  bridle  as  the  sunne  shone. 

Or  as  the  moonelight. 

His  speare  was  of  fine  cypress. 
That  bodeth  war,  and  nothing  peace; 
The  head  full  sharp  y-ground. 
His  steede  was  all  dapple  gray. 
It  went  an  amble  in  the  way 


*put  on  **skin 
*fine  linen 

*cassock 
*coat  of  mail 


*plate-armour 
*magicians' 

*knight's  surcoat 

*fight 

*carbuncle  <22> 


*boots 
*brass 


442 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Full  softely  and  round 
In  land. 

Lo,  Lordes  mine,  here  is  a  fytt; 
If  ye  will  any  more  of  it, 
To  tell  it  will  I  fand.* 


The  Second  Fit 


''try 


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443 


His  brighte  helm  was  his  wanger,* 
And  by  him  baited*  his  destrer** 
Of  herbes  fme  and  good. 

Himself  drank  water  of  the  well. 
As  did  the  knight  Sir  Percivel,  <31  > 
So  worthy  under  weed; 
Till  on  a  day  -    .    .    . 


*pillow<29> 
*fed**horse<30> 


Now  hold  your  mouth  for  charity, 
Bothe  knight  and  lady  free. 
And  hearken  to  my  spell;* 
Of  battle  and  of  chivalry. 
Of  ladies'  love  and  druerie,* 
Anon  I  will  you  tell. 

Men  speak  of  romances  of  price* 

Of  Horn  Child,  and  of  Ipotis, 

Of  Bevis,  and  Sir  Guy,  <26> 

Of  Sir  Libeux,  <27>  and  Pleindamour, 

But  SirThopas,  he  bears  the  flow'r 

Of  royal  chivalry. 

His  goode  steed  he  all  bestrode. 
And  forth  upon  his  way  he  glode,* 
As  sparkle  out  of  brand;* 
Upon  his  crest  he  bare  a  tow'r. 
And  therein  stick'd  a  lily  flow'r;  <28> 
God  shield  his  corse*  from  shand!** 

And,  for  he  was  a  knight  auntrous,* 
He  woulde  sleepen  in  none  house. 
But  liggen*  in  his  hood. 


*tale  <25> 
*gallantry 

*  worth,  esteem 


*shone 
*torch 


*body  **harm 
*adventurous 
*lie 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


ikauee^^  ^a/eof^mMo^ 


The  Prologue. 


"No  more  of  this,  for  Godde's  dignity!" 

Quoth  oure  Hoste;  "for  thou  makest  me 

So  weary  of  thy  very  lewedness,* 

That,  all  so  wisly*  God  my  soule  bless. 

Mine  eares  ache  for  thy  drafty*  speech. 

Now  such  a  rhyme  the  devil  I  beteche:* 

This  may  well  be  rhyme  doggerel,"  quoth  he. 

"Why  so?"  quoth  I;  "why  wilt  thou  lette*  me 

More  of  my  tale  than  any  other  man. 

Since  that  it  is  the  best  rhyme  that  I  can?"* 

"By  God!"  quoth  he,  "for,  plainly  at  one  word. 

Thy  drafty  rhyming  is  not  worth  a  tord: 

Thou  dost  naught  elles  but  dispendest*  time. 

Sir,  at  one  word,  thou  shalt  no  longer  rhyme. 

Let  see  whether  thou  canst  tellen  aught  *in  gest,* 

Or  tell  in  prose  somewhat,  at  the  least. 

In  which  there  be  some  mirth  or  some  doctrine." 

"Gladly,"  quoth  I,  "by  Godde's  sweete  pine,* 

I  will  you  tell  a  little  thing  in  prose. 

That  oughte  like*  you,  as  I  suppose. 

Or  else  certes  ye  be  too  dangerous.* 

It  is  a  moral  tale  virtuous, 

*A11  be  it*  told  sometimes  in  sundry  wise 


*stupidity,  ignorance  <  1  > 
*surely 
*worthless  <2> 
*commend  to 


prevent 


*know 


wastest 

*by  way  of 
narrative* 

*suffering 

*please 
*fastidious 

*although  it  be* 


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445 


By  sundry  folk,  as  I  shall  you  devise. 

As  thus,  ye  wot  that  ev'ry  Evangelist, 

That  telleth  us  the  pain*  of  Jesus  Christ, 

He  saith  not  all  thing  as  his  fellow  doth; 

But  natheless  their  sentence  is  all  soth,* 

And  all  accorden  as  in  their  sentence,* 

All  be  there  in  their  telling  difference; 

For  some  of  them  say  more,  and  some  say  less. 

When  they  his  piteous  passion  express; 

I  mean  of  Mark  and  Matthew,  Luke  and  John; 

But  doubteless  their  sentence  is  all  one. 

Therefore,  lordinges  all,  I  you  beseech. 

If  that  ye  think  I  vary  in  my  speech. 

As  thus,  though  that  I  telle  somedeal  more 

Of  proverbes,  than  ye  have  heard  before 

Comprehended  in  this  little  treatise  here, 

*T'enforce  with*  the  effect  of  my  mattere. 

And  though  I  not  the  same  wordes  say 

As  ye  have  heard,  yet  to  you  all  I  pray 

Blame  me  not;  for  as  in  my  sentence 

Shall  ye  nowhere  fmde  no  difference 

From  the  sentence  of  thilke*  treatise  lite,** 

After  the  which  this  merry  tale  I  write. 

And  therefore  hearken  to  what  I  shall  say. 

And  let  me  tellen  all  my  tale,  I  pray." 


passion 

*true 
*meaning 


*with  which  to 
enforce* 


*this  **little 


446 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Tale. 


A  young  man  called  Meliboeus,  mighty  and  rich,  begat  upon  his 
wife,  that  called  was  Prudence,  a  daughter  which  that  called  was 
Sophia.  Upon  a  day  befell,  that  he  for  his  disport  went  into  the 
fields  him  to  play  His  wife  and  eke  his  daughter  hath  he  left 
within  his  house,  of  which  the  doors  were  fast  shut.  Three  of  his 
old  foes  have  it  espied,  and  set  ladders  to  the  walls  of  his  house, 
and  by  the  windows  be  entered,  and  beaten  his  wife,  and 
wounded  his  daughter  with  five  mortal  wounds,  in  five  sundry 
places;  that  is  to  say,  in  her  feet,  in  her  hands,  in  her  ears,  in  her 
nose,  and  in  her  mouth;  and  left  her  for  dead,  and  went  away. 
When  Meliboeus  returned  was  into  his  house,  and  saw  all  this 
mischief,  he,  like  a  man  mad,  rending  his  clothes,  gan  weep  and 
cry.  Prudence  his  wife,  as  farforth  as  she  durst,  besought  him  of 
his  weeping  for  to  stint:  but  not  forthy  [notwithstanding]  he  gan 
to  weep  and  cry  ever  longer  the  more. 

This  noble  wife  Prudence  remembered  her  upon  the  sentence  of 
Ovid,  in  his  book  that  called  is  the  "Remedy  of  Love,"  <2> 
where  he  saith:  He  is  a  fool  that  disturbeth  the  mother  to  weep 
in  the  death  of  her  child,  till  she  have  wept  her  fill,  as  for  a 
certain  time;  and  then  shall  a  man  do  his  diligence  with  amiable 
words  her  to  recomfort  and  pray  her  of  her  weeping  for  to  stint 
[cease].  For  which  reason  this  noble  wife  Prudence  suffered  her 
husband  for  to  weep  and  cry,  as  for  a  certain  space;  and  when 
she  saw  her  time,  she  said  to  him  in  this  wise:  "Alas!  my  lord," 
quoth  she,  "why  make  ye  yourself  for  to  be  like  a  fool?  For 
sooth  it  appertaineth  not  to  a  wise  man  to  make  such  a  sorrow. 
Your  daughter,  with  the  grace  of  God,  shall  warish  [be  cured] 
and  escape.  And  all  [although]  were  it  so  that  she  right  now 
were  dead,  ye  ought  not  for  her  death  yourself  to  destroy. 
Seneca  saith.  The  wise  man  shall  not  take  too  great  discomfort 
for  the  death  of  his  children,  but  certes  he  should  suffer  it  in 


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patience,  as  well  as  he  abideth  the  death  of  his  own  proper 
person.'" 

Meliboeus  answered  anon  and  said:  "What  man,"  quoth  he, 
"should  of  his  weeping  stint,  that  hath  so  great  a  cause  to  weep? 
Jesus  Christ,  our  Lord,  himself  wept  for  the  death  of  Lazarus 
his  friend."  Prudence  answered,  "Certes,  well  I  wot, 
attempered  [moderate]  weeping  is  nothing  defended  [forbidden] 
to  him  that  sorrowful  is,  among  folk  in  sorrow  but  it  is  rather 
granted  him  to  weep.  The  Apostle  Paul  unto  the  Romans 
writeth,  'Man  shall  rejoice  with  them  that  make  joy,  and  weep 
with  such  folk  as  weep.'  But  though  temperate  weeping  be 
granted,  outrageous  weeping  certes  is  defended.  Measure  of 
weeping  should  be  conserved,  after  the  lore  [doctrine]  that 
teacheth  us  Seneca.  'When  that  thy  friend  is  dead,'  quoth  he,  'let 
not  thine  eyes  too  moist  be  of  tears,  nor  too  much  dry:  although 
the  tears  come  to  thine  eyes,  let  them  not  fall.  And  when  thou 
hast  forgone  [lost]  thy  friend,  do  diligence  to  get  again  another 
friend:  and  this  is  more  wisdom  than  to  weep  for  thy  friend 
which  that  thou  hast  lorn  [lost]  for  therein  is  no  boot 
[advantage].  And  therefore  if  ye  govern  you  by  sapience,  put 
away  sorrow  out  of  your  heart.  Remember  you  that  Jesus 
Sirach  saith,  'A  man  that  is  joyous  and  glad  in  heart,  it  him 
conserveth  flourishing  in  his  age:  but  soothly  a  sorrowful  heart 
maketh  his  bones  dry'  He  said  eke  thus,  'that  sorrow  in  heart 
slayth  full  many  a  man.'  Solomon  saith  'that  right  as  moths  in 
the  sheep's  fleece  annoy  [do  injury]  to  the  clothes,  and  the  small 
worms  to  the  tree,  right  so  annoyeth  sorrow  to  the  heart  of 
man.'  Wherefore  us  ought  as  well  in  the  death  of  our  children, 
as  in  the  loss  of  our  goods  temporal,  have  patience.  Remember 
you  upon  the  patient  Job,  when  he  had  lost  his  children  and  his 
temporal  substance,  and  in  his  body  endured  and  received  full 
many  a  grievous  tribulation,  yet  said  he  thus:  'Our  Lord  hath 
given  it  to  me,  our  Lord  hath  bereft  it  me;  right  as  our  Lord 


447 


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Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


would,  right  so  be  it  done;  blessed  be  the  name  of  our  Lord."' 

To  these  foresaid  things  answered  Meliboeus  unto  his  wife 
Prudence:  "All  thy  words,"  quoth  he,  "be  true,  and  thereto 
[also]  profitable,  but  truly  mine  heart  is  troubled  with  this 
sorrow  so  grievously,  that  I  know  not  what  to  do."  "Let  call," 
quoth  Prudence,  "thy  true  friends  all,  and  thy  lineage,  which  be 
wise,  and  tell  to  them  your  case,  and  hearken  what  they  say  in 
counselling,  and  govern  you  after  their  sentence  [opinion]. 
Solomon  saith,  'Work  all  things  by  counsel,  and  thou  shall  never 
repent.'"  Then,  by  counsel  of  his  wife  Prudence,  this  Meliboeus 
let  call  [sent  for]  a  great  congregation  of  folk,  as  surgeons, 
physicians,  old  folk  and  young,  and  some  of  his  old  enemies 
reconciled  (as  by  their  semblance)  to  his  love  and  to  his  grace; 
and  therewithal  there  come  some  of  his  neighbours,  that  did  him 
reverence  more  for  dread  than  for  love,  as  happeneth  oft.  There 
come  also  full  many  subtle  flatterers,  and  wise  advocates 
learned  in  the  law.  And  when  these  folk  together  assembled 
were,  this  Meliboeus  in  sorrowful  wise  showed  them  his  case, 
and  by  the  manner  of  his  speech  it  seemed  that  in  heart  he  bare 
a  cruel  ire,  ready  to  do  vengeance  upon  his  foes,  and  suddenly 
desired  that  the  war  should  begin,  but  nevertheless  yet  asked  he 
their  counsel  in  this  matter.  A  surgeon,  by  licence  and  assent  of 
such  as  were  wise,  up  rose,  and  to  Meliboeus  said  as  ye  may 
hear.  "Sir,"  quoth  he,  "as  to  us  surgeons  appertaineth,  that  we 
do  to  every  wight  the  best  that  we  can,  where  as  we  be 
withholden,  [employed]  and  to  our  patient  that  we  do  no 
damage;  wherefore  it  happeneth  many  a  time  and  oft,  that  when 
two  men  have  wounded  each  other,  one  same  surgeon  healeth 
them  both;  wherefore  unto  our  art  it  is  not  pertinent  to  nurse 
war,  nor  parties  to  support  [take  sides].  But  certes,  as  to  the 
warishing  [healing]  of  your  daughter,  albeit  so  that  perilously 
she  be  wounded,  we  shall  do  so  attentive  business  from  day  to 
night,  that,  with  the  grace  of  God,  she  shall  be  whole  and 


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sound,  as  soon  as  is  possible."  Almost  right  in  the  same  wise  the 
physicians  answered,  save  that  they  said  a  few  words  more:  that 
right  as  maladies  be  cured  by  their  contraries,  right  so  shall  man 
warish  war  (by  peace).  His  neighbours  full  of  envy,  his  feigned 
friends  that  seemed  reconciled,  and  his  flatterers,  made 
semblance  of  weeping,  and  impaired  and  agregged  [aggravated] 
much  of  this  matter,  in  praising  greatly  Meliboeus  of  might,  of 
power,  of  riches,  and  of  friends,  despising  the  power  of  his 
adversaries:  and  said  utterly,  that  he  anon  should  wreak  him  on 
his  foes,  and  begin  war. 

Up  rose  then  an  advocate  that  was  wise,  by  leave  and  by 
counsel  of  other  that  were  wise,  and  said,  "Lordings,  the  need 
[business]  for  which  we  be  assembled  in  this  place,  is  a  full 
heavy  thing,  and  an  high  matter,  because  of  the  wrong  and  of 
the  wickedness  that  hath  been  done,  and  eke  by  reason  of  the 
great  damages  that  in  time  coming  be  possible  to  fall  for  the 
same  cause,  and  eke  by  reason  of  the  great  riches  and  power  of 
the  parties  both;  for  which  reasons,  it  were  a  full  great  peril  to 
err  in  this  matter.  Wherefore,  Meliboeus,  this  is  our  sentence 
[opinion];  we  counsel  you,  above  all  things,  that  right  anon  thou 
do  thy  diligence  in  keeping  of  thy  body,  in  such  a  wise  that  thou 
want  no  espy  nor  watch  thy  body  to  save.  And  after  that,  we 
counsel  that  in  thine  house  thou  set  sufficient  garrison,  so  that 
they  may  as  well  thy  body  as  thy  house  defend.  But,  certes,  to 
move  war  or  suddenly  to  do  vengeance,  we  may  not  deem 
[judge]  in  so  little  time  that  it  were  profitable.  Wherefore  we 
ask  leisure  and  space  to  have  deliberation  in  this  case  to  deem; 
for  the  common  proverb  saith  thus;  'He  that  soon  deemeth  soon 
shall  repent.' And  eke  men  say,  that  that  judge  is  wise,  that  soon 
understandeth  a  matter,  and  judgeth  by  leisure.  For  albeit  so 
that  all  tarrying  be  annoying,  algates  [nevertheless]  it  is  no 
reproof  [subject  for  reproach]  in  giving  of  judgement,  nor  in 
vengeance  taking,  when  it  is  sufficient  and,  reasonable.  And 


449 


450 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


that  shewed  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  by  example;  for  when  that 
the  woman  that  was  taken  in  adultery  was  brought  in  his 
presence  to  know  what  should  be  done  with  her  person,  albeit 
that  he  wist  well  himself  what  he  would  answer,  yet  would  he 
not  answer  suddenly,  but  he  would  have  deliberation,  and  in  the 
ground  he  wrote  twice.  And  by  these  causes  we  ask  deliberation 
and  we  shall  then  by  the  grace  of  God  counsel  the  thing  that 
shall  be  profitable." 

Up  started  then  the  young  folk  anon  at  once,  and  the  most  part 
of  that  company  have  scorned  these  old  wise  men  and  begun  to 
make  noise  and  said,  "Right  as  while  that  iron  is  hot  men  should 
smite,  right  so  men  should  wreak  their  wrongs  while  that  they 
be  fresh  and  new:"  and  with  loud  voice  they  cried.  "War!  War!" 
Up  rose  then  one  of  these  old  wise,  and  with  his  hand  made 
countenance  [a  sign,  gesture]  that  men  should  hold  them  still, 
and  give  him  audience.  "Lordings,"  quoth  he,  "there  is  full  many 
a  man  that  crieth,  'War!  war!'  that  wot  full  little  what  war 
amounteth.  War  at  his  beginning  hath  so  great  an  entering  and 
so  large,  that  every  wight  may  enter  when  him  liketh,  and  lightly 
[easily]  fmd  war:  but  certes  what  end  shall  fall  thereof  it  is  not 
light  to  know.  For  soothly  when  war  is  once  begun,  there  is  full 
many  a  child  unborn  of  his  mother,  that  shall  sterve  [die]  young 
by  cause  of  that  war,  or  else  live  in  sorrow  and  die  in 
wretchedness;  and  therefore,  ere  that  any  war  be  begun,  men 
must  have  great  counsel  and  great  deliberation."  And  when  this 
old  man  weened  [thought,  intended]  to  enforce  his  tale  by 
reasons,  well-nigh  all  at  once  began  they  to  rise  for  to  break  his 
tale,  and  bid  him  full  oft  his  words  abridge.  For  soothly  he  that 
preacheth  to  them  that  list  not  hear  his  words,  his  sermon  them 
annoyeth.  For  Jesus  Sirach  saith,  that  music  in  weeping  is  a 
noyous  [troublesome]  thing.  This  is  to  say,  as  much  availeth  to 
speak  before  folk  to  whom  his  speech  annoyeth,  as  to  sing 
before  him  that  weepeth.  And  when  this  wise  man  saw  that  him 


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wanted  audience,  all  shamefast  he  sat  him  down  again.  For 
Solomon  saith,  'Where  as  thou  mayest  have  no  audience, 
enforce  thee  not  to  speak.'  "I  see  well,"  quoth  this  wise  man, 
"that  the  common  proverb  is  sooth,  that  good  counsel  wanteth, 
when  it  is  most  need."  Yet  [besides,  further]  had  this  Meliboeus 
in  his  council  many  folk,  that  privily  in  his  ear  counselled  him 
certain  thing,  and  counselled  him  the  contrary  in  general 
audience.  When  Meliboeus  had  heard  that  the  greatest  part  of 
his  council  were  accorded  [in  agreement]  that  he  should  make 
war,  anon  he  consented  to  their  counselling,  and  fully  affirmed 
their  sentence  [opinion,  judgement]. 

(Dame  Prudence,  seeing  her  husband's  resolution  thus  taken,  in 
full  humble  wise,  when  she  saw  her  time,  begins  to  counsel  him 
against  war,  by  a  warning  against  haste  in  requital  of  either 
good  or  evil.  Meliboeus  tells  her  that  he  will  not  work  by  her 
counsel,  because  he  should  be  held  a  fool  if  he  rejected  for  her 
advice  the  opinion  of  so  many  wise  men;  because  all  women  are 
bad;  because  it  would  seem  that  he  had  given  her  the  mastery 
over  him;  and  because  she  could  not  keep  his  secret,  if  he 
resolved  to  follow  her  advice.  To  these  reasons  Prudence 
answers  that  it  is  no  folly  to  change  counsel  when  things,  or 
men's  judgements  of  them,  change  —  especially  to  alter  a 
resolution  taken  on  the  impulse  of  a  great  multitude  of  folk, 
where  every  man  crieth  and  clattereth  what  him  liketh;  that  if  all 
women  had  been  wicked,  Jesus  Christ  would  never  have 
descended  to  be  born  of  a  woman,  nor  have  showed  himself 
first  to  a  woman  after  his  resurrection  and  that  when  Solomon 
said  he  had  found  no  good  woman,  he  meant  that  God  alone 
was  supremely  good;  <3>  that  her  husband  would  not  seem  to 
give  her  the  mastery  by  following  her  counsel,  for  he  had  his 
own  free  choice  in  following  or  rejecting  it;  and  that  he  knew 
well  and  had  often  tested  her  great  silence,  patience,  and 
secrecy.  And  whereas  he  had  quoted  a  saying,  that  in  wicked 


451 


452 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


counsel  women  vanquish  men,  she  reminds  him  that  she  would 
counsel  him  against  doing  a  wickedness  on  which  he  had  set  his 
mind,  and  cites  instances  to  show  that  many  women  have  been 
and  yet  are  full  good,  and  their  counsel  wholesome  and 
profitable.  Lastly,  she  quotes  the  words  of  God  himself,  when 
he  was  about  to  make  woman  as  an  help  meet  for  man;  and 
promises  that,  if  her  husband  will  trust  her  counsel,  she  will 
restore  to  him  his  daughter  whole  and  sound,  and  make  him 
have  honour  in  this  case.  Meliboeus  answers  that  because  of  his 
wife's  sweet  words,  and  also  because  he  has  proved  and  assayed 
her  great  wisdom  and  her  great  truth,  he  will  govern  him  by  her 
counsel  in  all  things.  Thus  encouraged.  Prudence  enters  on  a 
long  discourse,  full  of  learned  citations,  regarding  the  manner  in 
which  counsellors  should  be  chosen  and  consulted,  and  the 
times  and  reasons  for  changing  a  counsel.  First,  God  must  be 
besought  for  guidance.  Then  a  man  must  well  examine  his  own 
thoughts,  of  such  things  as  he  holds  to  be  best  for  his  own 
profit;  driving  out  of  his  heart  anger,  covetousness,  and 
hastiness,  which  perturb  and  pervert  the  judgement.  Then  he 
must  keep  his  counsel  secret,  unless  confiding  it  to  another  shall 
be  more  profitable;  but,  in  so  confiding  it,  he  shall  say  nothing 
to  bias  the  mind  of  the  counsellor  toward  flattery  or 
subserviency.  After  that  he  should  consider  his  friends  and  his 
enemies,  choosing  of  the  former  such  as  be  most  faithful  and 
wise,  and  eldest  and  most  approved  in  counselling;  and  even  of 
these  only  a  few.  Then  he  must  eschew  the  counselling  of  fools, 
of  flatterers,  of  his  old  enemies  that  be  reconciled,  of  servants 
who  bear  him  great  reverence  and  fear,  of  folk  that  be  drunken 
and  can  hide  no  counsel,  of  such  as  counsel  one  thing  privily 
and  the  contrary  openly;  and  of  young  folk,  for  their  counselling 
is  not  ripe.  Then,  in  examining  his  counsel,  he  must  truly  tell  his 
tale;  he  must  consider  whether  the  thing  he  proposes  to  do  be 
reasonable,  within  his  power,  and  acceptable  to  the  more  part 
and  the  better  part  of  his  counsellors;  he  must  look  at  the  things 


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that  may  follow  from  that  counselling,  choosing  the  best  and 
waiving  all  besides;  he  must  consider  the  root  whence  the 
matter  of  his  counsel  is  engendered,  what  fruits  it  may  bear, 
and  from  what  causes  they  be  sprung.  And  having  thus 
examined  his  counsel  and  approved  it  by  many  wise  folk  and 
old,  he  shall  consider  if  he  may  perform  it  and  make  of  it  a  good 
end;  if  he  be  in  doubt,  he  shall  choose  rather  to  suffer  than  to 
begin;  but  otherwise  he  shall  prosecute  his  resolution  steadfastly 
till  the  enterprise  be  at  an  end.  As  to  changing  his  counsel,  a 
man  may  do  so  without  reproach,  if  the  cause  cease,  or  when  a 
new  case  betides,  or  if  he  find  that  by  error  or  otherwise  harm 
or  damage  may  result,  or  if  his  counsel  be  dishonest  or  come  of 
dishonest  cause,  or  if  it  be  impossible  or  may  not  properly  be 
kept;  and  he  must  take  it  for  a  general  rule,  that  every  counsel 
which  is  affirmed  so  strongly,  that  it  may  not  be  changed  for 
any  condition  that  may  betide,  that  counsel  is  wicked. 
Meliboeus,  admitting  that  his  wife  had  spoken  well  and  suitably 
as  to  counsellors  and  counsel  in  general,  prays  her  to  tell  him  in 
especial  what  she  thinks  of  the  counsellors  whom  they  have 
chosen  in  their  present  need.  Prudence  replies  that  his  counsel  in 
this  case  could  not  properly  be  called  a  counselling,  but  a 
movement  of  folly;  and  points  out  that  he  has  erred  in  sundry 
wise  against  the  rules  which  he  had  just  laid  down.  Granting 
that  he  has  erred,  Meliboeus  says  that  he  is  all  ready  to  change 
his  counsel  right  as  she  will  devise;  for,  as  the  proverb  runs,  to 
do  sin  is  human,  but  to  persevere  long  in  sin  is  work  of  the 
Devil.  Prudence  then  minutely  recites,  analyses,  and  criticises 
the  counsel  given  to  her  husband  in  the  assembly  of  his  friends. 
She  commends  the  advice  of  the  physicians  and  surgeons,  and 
urges  that  they  should  be  well  rewarded  for  their  noble  speech 
and  their  services  in  healing  Sophia;  and  she  asks  Meliboeus 
how  he  understands  their  proposition  that  one  contrary  must  be 
cured  by  another  contrary.  Meliboeus  answers,  that  he  should 
do  vengeance  on  his  enemies,  who  had  done  him  wrong. 


453 


454 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Prudence,  however,  insists  that  vengeance  is  not  the  contrary  of 
vengeance,  nor  wrong  of  wrong,  but  the  like;  and  that 
wickedness  should  be  healed  by  goodness,  discord  by  accord, 
war  by  peace.  She  proceeds  to  deal  with  the  counsel  of  the 
lawyers  and  wise  folk  that  advised  Meliboeus  to  take  prudent 
measures  for  the  security  of  his  body  and  of  his  house.  First,  she 
would  have  her  husband  pray  for  the  protection  and  aid  of 
Christ;  then  commit  the  keeping  of  his  person  to  his  true 
friends;  then  suspect  and  avoid  all  strange  folk,  and  liars,  and 
such  people  as  she  had  already  warned  him  against;  then  beware 
of  presuming  on  his  strength,  or  the  weakness  of  his  adversary, 
and  neglecting  to  guard  his  person  —  for  every  wise  man 
dreadeth  his  enemy;  then  he  should  evermore  be  on  the  watch 
against  ambush  and  all  espial,  even  in  what  seems  a  place  of 
safety;  though  he  should  not  be  so  cowardly,  as  to  fear  where  is 
no  cause  for  dread;  yet  he  should  dread  to  be  poisoned,  and 
therefore  shun  scorners,  and  fly  their  words  as  venom.  As  to 
the  fortification  of  his  house,  she  points  out  that  towers  and 
great  edifices  are  costly  and  laborious,  yet  useless  unless 
defended  by  true  friends  that  be  old  and  wise;  and  the  greatest 
and  strongest  garrison  that  a  rich  man  may  have,  as  well  to  keep 
his  person  as  his  goods,  is,  that  he  be  beloved  by  his  subjects 
and  by  his  neighbours.  Warmly  approving  the  counsel  that  in  all 
this  business  Meliboeus  should  proceed  with  great  diligence  and 
deliberation.  Prudence  goes  on  to  examine  the  advice  given  by 
his  neighbours  that  do  him  reverence  without  love,  his  old 
enemies  reconciled,  his  flatterers  that  counselled  him  certain 
things  privily  and  openly  counselled  him  the  contrary,  and  the 
young  folk  that  counselled  him  to  avenge  himself  and  make  war 
at  once.  She  reminds  him  that  he  stands  alone  against  three 
powerful  enemies,  whose  kindred  are  numerous  and  close, 
while  his  are  fewer  and  remote  in  relationship;  that  only  the 
judge  who  has  jurisdiction  in  a  case  may  take  sudden  vengeance 
on  any  man;  that  her  husband's  power  does  not  accord  with  his 


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desire;  and  that,  if  he  did  take  vengeance,  it  would  only  breed 
fresh  wrongs  and  contests.  As  to  the  causes  of  the  wrong  done 
to  him,  she  holds  that  God,  the  causer  of  all  things,  has 
permitted  him  to  suffer  because  he  has  drunk  so  much  honey 
<4>  of  sweet  temporal  riches,  and  delights,  and  honours  of  this 
world,  that  he  is  drunken,  and  has  forgotten  Jesus  Christ  his 
Saviour;  the  three  enemies  of  mankind,  the  flesh,  the  fiend,  and 
the  world,  have  entered  his  heart  by  the  windows  of  his  body, 
and  wounded  his  soul  in  five  places  —  that  is  to  say,  the  deadly 
sins  that  have  entered  into  his  heart  by  the  five  senses;  and  in 
the  same  manner  Christ  has  suffered  his  three  enemies  to  enter 
his  house  by  the  windows,  and  wound  his  daughter  in  the  five 
places  before  specified.  Meliboeus  demurs,  that  if  his  wife's 
objections  prevailed,  vengeance  would  never  be  taken,  and 
thence  great  mischiefs  would  arise;  but  Prudence  replies  that  the 
taking  of  vengeance  lies  with  the  judges,  to  whom  the  private 
individual  must  have  recourse.  Meliboeus  declares  that  such 
vengeance  does  not  please  him,  and  that,  as  Fortune  has 
nourished  and  helped  him  from  his  childhood,  he  will  now  assay 
her,  trusting,  with  God's  help,  that  she  will  aid  him  to  avenge  his 
shame.  Prudence  warns  him  against  trusting  to  Fortune,  all  the 
less  because  she  has  hitherto  favoured  him,  for  just  on  that 
account  she  is  the  more  likely  to  fail  him;  and  she  calls  on  him 
to  leave  his  vengeance  with  the  Sovereign  Judge,  that  avengeth 
all  villainies  and  wrongs.  Meliboeus  argues  that  if  he  refrains 
from  taking  vengeance  he  will  invite  his  enemies  to  do  him 
further  wrong,  and  he  will  be  put  and  held  over  low;  but 
Prudence  contends  that  such  a  result  can  be  brought  about  only 
by  the  neglect  of  the  judges,  not  by  the  patience  of  the 
individual.  Supposing  that  he  had  leave  to  avenge  himself,  she 
repeats  that  he  is  not  strong  enough,  and  quotes  the  common 
saw,  that  it  is  madness  for  a  man  to  strive  with  a  stronger  than 
himself,  peril  to  strive  with  one  of  equal  strength,  and  folly  to 
strive  with  a  weaker.  But,  considering  his  own  defaults  and 


455 


456 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


demerits,  —  remembering  the  patience  of  Christ  and  the 
undeserved  tribulations  of  the  saints,  the  brevity  of  this  life  w^ith 
all  its  trouble  and  sorrow^,  the  discredit  throw^n  on  the  w^isdom 
and  training  of  a  man  w^ho  cannot  bear  w^rong  w^ith  patience  — 
he  should  refrain  w^holly  from  taking  vengeance.  Meliboeus 
submits  that  he  is  not  at  all  a  perfect  man,  and  his  heart  w^ill 
never  be  at  peace  until  he  is  avenged;  and  that  as  his  enemies 
disregarded  the  peril  w^hen  they  attacked  him,  so  he  might, 
w^ithout  reproach,  incur  some  peril  in  attacking  them  in  return, 
even  though  he  did  a  great  excess  in  avenging  one  w^rong  by 
another.  Prudence  strongly  deprecates  all  outrage  or  excess;  but 
Meliboeus  insists  that  he  cannot  see  that  it  might  greatly  harm 
him  though  he  took  a  vengeance,  for  he  is  richer  and  mightier 
than  his  enemies,  and  all  things  obey  money.  Prudence 
thereupon  launches  into  a  long  dissertation  on  the  advantages  of 
riches,  the  evils  of  poverty,  the  means  by  w^hich  w^ealth  should 
be  gathered,  and  the  manner  in  w^hich  it  should  be  used;  and 
concludes  by  counselling  her  husband  not  to  move  w^ar  and 
battle  through  trust  in  his  riches,  for  they  suffice  not  to  maintain 
w^ar,  the  battle  is  not  aWays  to  the  strong  or  the  numerous,  and 
the  perils  of  conflict  are  many.  Meliboeus  then  curtly  asks  her 
for  her  counsel  how^  he  shall  do  in  this  need;  and  she  answ^ers 
that  certainly  she  counsels  him  to  agree  w^ith  his  adversaries  and 
have  peace  w^ith  them.  Meliboeus  on  this  cries  out  that  plainly 
she  loves  not  his  honour  or  his  w^orship,  in  counselling  him  to 
go  and  humble  himself  before  his  enemies,  crying  mercy  to  them 
that,  having  done  him  so  grievous  w^rong,  ask  him  not  to  be 
reconciled.  Then  Prudence,  making  semblance  of  w^rath,  retorts 
that  she  loves  his  honour  and  profit  as  she  loves  her  ow^n,  and 
ever  has  done;  she  cites  the  Scriptures  in  support  of  her  counsel 
to  seek  peace;  and  says  she  w^ill  leave  him  to  his  ow^n  courses, 
for  she  know^s  w^ell  he  is  so  stubborn,  that  he  w^ill  do  nothing  for 
her.  Meliboeus  then  relents;  admits  that  he  is  angry  and  cannot 
judge  aright;  and  puts  himself  w^holly  in  her  hands,  promising  to 


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do  just  as  she  desires,  and  admitting  that  he  is  the  more  held  to 
love  and  praise  her,  if  she  reproves  him  of  his  folly) 

Then  Dame  Prudence  discovered  all  her  counsel  and  her  w^ill 
unto  him,  and  said:  "I  counsel  you,"  quoth  she,  "above  all 
things,  that  ye  make  peace  betw^een  God  and  you,  and  be 
reconciled  unto  Him  and  to  his  grace;  for,  as  I  have  said  to  you 
herebefore,  God  hath  suffered  you  to  have  this  tribulation  and 
disease  [distress,  trouble]  for  your  sins;  and  if  ye  do  as  I  say 
you,  God  w^ill  send  your  adversaries  unto  you,  and  make  them 
fall  at  your  feet,  ready  to  do  your  w^ill  and  your  commandment. 
For  Solomon  saith,  'When  the  condition  of  man  is  pleasant  and 
liking  to  God,  he  changeth  the  hearts  of  the  man's  adversaries, 
and  constraineth  them  to  beseech  him  of  peace  of  grace.'  And  I 
pray  you  let  me  speak  w^ith  your  adversaries  in  privy  place,  for 
they  shall  not  know^  it  is  by  your  w^ill  or  your  assent;  and  then, 
w^hen  I  know^  their  w^ill  and  their  intent,  I  may  counsel  you  the 
more  surely."  '"Dame,"  quoth  Meliboeus,  '"do  your  w^ill  and 
your  liking,  for  I  put  me  w^holly  in  your  disposition  and 
ordinance." 

Then  Dame  Prudence,  w^hen  she  saw^  the  goodw^ill  of  her 
husband,  deliberated  and  took  advice  in  herself,  thinking  how^ 
she  might  bring  this  need  [affair,  emergency]  unto  a  good  end. 
And  w^hen  she  saw^  her  time,  she  sent  for  these  adversaries  to 
come  into  her  into  a  privy  place,  and  show^ed  w^isely  into  them 
the  great  goods  that  come  of  peace,  and  the  great  harms  and 
perils  that  be  in  vv^ar;  and  said  to  them,  in  goodly  manner,  ]iow 
that  they  ought  have  great  repentance  of  the  injuries  and 
w^rongs  that  they  had  done  to  Meliboeus  her  Lord,  and  unto  her 
and  her  daughter.  And  w^hen  they  heard  the  goodly  w^ords  of 
Dame  Prudence,  then  they  w^ere  surprised  and  ravished,  and  had 
so  great  joy  of  her,  that  w^onder  w^as  to  tell.  "Ah  lady!"  quoth 
they,  "ye  have  show^ed  unto  us  the  blessing  of  sw^eetness,  after 


457 


458 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


the  saying  of  David  the  prophet;  for  the  reconciling  which  we 
be  not  worthy  to  have  in  no  manner,  but  we  ought  require  it 
with  great  contrition  and  humility,  ye  of  your  great  goodness 
have  presented  unto  us.  Now  see  we  well,  that  the  science  and 
conning  [knowledge]  of  Solomon  is  full  true;  for  he  saith,  that 
sweet  words  multiply  and  increase  friends,  and  make  shrews 
[the  ill-natured  or  angry]  to  be  debonair  [gentle,  courteous]  and 
meek.  Certes  we  put  our  deed,  and  all  our  matter  and  cause,  all 
wholly  in  your  goodwill,  and  be  ready  to  obey  unto  the  speech 
and  commandment  of  my  lord  Meliboeus.  And  therefore,  dear 
and  benign  lady,  we  pray  you  and  beseech  you  as  meekly  as  we 
can  and  may,  that  it  like  unto  your  great  goodness  to  fulfil  in 
deed  your  goodly  words.  For  we  consider  and  acknowledge 
that  we  have  offended  and  grieved  my  lord  Meliboeus  out  of 
measure,  so  far  forth  that  we  be  not  of  power  to  make  him 
amends;  and  therefore  we  oblige  and  bind  us  and  our  friends  to 
do  all  his  will  and  his  commandment.  But  peradventure  he  hath 
such  heaviness  and  such  wrath  to  usward,  [towards  us]  because 
of  our  offence,  that  he  will  enjoin  us  such  a  pain  [penalty]  as  we 
may  not  bear  nor  sustain;  and  therefore,  noble  lady,  we  beseech 
to  your  womanly  pity  to  take  such  advisement  [consideration] 
in  this  need,  that  we,  nor  our  friends,  be  not  disinherited  and 
destroyed  through  our  folly." 

"Certes,"  quoth  Prudence,  "it  is  an  hard  thing,  and  right 
perilous,  that  a  man  put  him  all  utterly  in  the  arbitration  and 
judgement  and  in  the  might  and  power  of  his  enemy.  For 
Solomon  saith,  'Believe  me,  and  give  credence  to  that  that  I 
shall  say:  to  thy  son,  to  thy  wife,  to  thy  friend,  nor  to  thy 
brother,  give  thou  never  might  nor  mastery  over  thy  body,  while 
thou  livest.'  Now,  since  he  defendeth  [forbiddeth]  that  a  man 
should  not  give  to  his  brother,  nor  to  his  friend,  the  might  of  his 
body,  by  a  stronger  reason  he  defendeth  and  forbiddeth  a  man 
to  give  himself  to  his  enemy.  And  nevertheless,  I  counsel  you 


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that  ye  mistrust  not  my  lord:  for  I  wot  well  and  know  verily, 
that  he  is  debonair  and  meek,  large,  courteous  and  nothing 
desirous  nor  envious  of  good  nor  riches:  for  there  is  nothing  in 
this  world  that  he  desireth  save  only  worship  and  honour. 
Furthermore  I  know  well,  and  am  right  sure,  that  he  shall 
nothing  do  in  this  need  without  counsel  of  me;  and  I  shall  so 
work  in  this  case,  that  by  the  grace  of  our  Lord  God  ye  shall  be 
reconciled  unto  us." 

Then  said  they  with  one  voice,  ""Worshipful  lady,  we  put  us 
and  our  goods  all  fully  in  your  will  and  disposition,  and  be  ready 
to  come,  what  day  that  it  like  unto  your  nobleness  to  limit  us  or 
assign  us,  for  to  make  our  obligation  and  bond,  as  strong  as  it 
liketh  unto  your  goodness,  that  we  may  fulfil  the  will  of  you  and 
of  my  lord  Meliboeus." 

When  Dame  Prudence  had  heard  the  answer  of  these  men,  she 
bade  them  go  again  privily,  and  she  returned  to  her  lord 
Meliboeus,  and  told  him  how  she  found  his  adversaries  full 
repentant,  acknowledging  full  lowly  their  sins  and  trespasses, 
and  how  they  were  ready  to  suffer  all  pain,  requiring  and 
praying  him  of  mercy  and  pity.  Then  said  Meliboeus,  "He  is  well 
worthy  to  have  pardon  and  forgiveness  of  his  sin,  that  excuseth 
not  his  sin,  but  acknowledgeth,  and  repenteth  him,  asking 
indulgence.  For  Seneca  saith,  'There  is  the  remission  and 
forgiveness,  where  the  confession  is;  for  confession  is  neighbour 
to  innocence.'  And  therefore  I  assent  and  confirm  me  to  have 
peace,  but  it  is  good  that  we  do  naught  without  the  assent  and 
will  of  our  friends."  Then  was  Prudence  right  glad  and  joyful, 
and  said,  "Certes,  Sir,  ye  be  well  and  goodly  advised;  for  right 
as  by  the  counsel,  assent,  and  help  of  your  friends  ye  have  been 
stirred  to  avenge  you  and  make  war,  right  so  without  their 
counsel  shall  ye  not  accord  you,  nor  have  peace  with  your 
adversaries.  For  the  law  saith,  'There  is  nothing  so  good  byway 


459 


460 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


of  kind,  [nature]  as  a  thing  to  be  unbound  by  him  that  it  was 
bound.'" 

And  then  Dame  Prudence,  without  delay  or  tarrying,  sent  anon 
her  messengers  for  their  kin  and  for  their  old  friends,  which 
were  true  and  wise;  and  told  them  by  order,  in  the  presence  of 
Meliboeus,  all  this  matter,  as  it  is  above  expressed  and  declared; 
and  prayed  them  that  they  would  give  their  advice  and  counsel 
what  were  best  to  do  in  this  need.  And  when  Meliboeus'  friends 
had  taken  their  advice  and  deliberation  of  the  foresaid  matter, 
and  had  examined  it  by  great  business  and  great  diligence,  they 
gave  full  counsel  for  to  have  peace  and  rest,  and  that  Meliboeus 
should  with  good  heart  receive  his  adversaries  to  forgiveness 
and  mercy.  And  when  Dame  Prudence  had  heard  the  assent  of 
her  lord  Meliboeus,  and  the  counsel  of  his  friends,  accord  with 
her  will  and  her  intention,  she  was  wondrous  glad  in  her  heart, 
and  said:  "There  is  an  old  proverb  that  saith.  The  goodness  that 
thou  mayest  do  this  day,  do  it,  and  abide  not  nor  delay  it  not  till 
to-morrow:'  and  therefore  I  counsel  you  that  ye  send  your 
messengers,  such  as  be  discreet  and  wise,  unto  your  adversaries, 
telling  them  on  your  behalf,  that  if  they  will  treat  of  peace  and 
of  accord,  that  they  shape  [prepare]  them,  without  delay  or 
tarrying,  to  come  unto  us."  Which  thing  performed  was  indeed. 
And  when  these  trespassers  and  repenting  folk  of  their  follies, 
that  is  to  say,  the  adversaries  of  Meliboeus,  had  heard  what 
these  messengers  said  unto  them,  they  were  right  glad  and 
joyful,  and  answered  full  meekly  and  benignly,  yielding  graces 
and  thanks  to  their  lord  Meliboeus,  and  to  all  his  company;  and 
shaped  them  without  delay  to  go  with  the  messengers,  and  obey 
to  the  commandment  of  their  lord  Meliboeus.  And  right  anon 
they  took  their  way  to  the  court  of  Meliboeus,  and  took  with 
them  some  of  their  true  friends,  to  make  faith  for  them,  and  for 
to  be  their  borrows  [sureties]. 


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And  when  they  were  come  to  the  presence  of  Meliboeus,  he 
said  to  them  these  words;  "It  stands  thus,"  quoth  Meliboeus, 
"and  sooth  it  is,  that  ye  causeless,  and  without  skill  and  reason, 
have  done  great  injuries  and  wrongs  to  me,  and  to  my  wife 
Prudence,  and  to  my  daughter  also;  for  ye  have  entered  into  my 
house  by  violence,  and  have  done  such  outrage,  that  all  men 
know  well  that  ye  have  deserved  the  death:  and  therefore  will  I 
know  and  weet  of  you,  whether  ye  will  put  the  punishing  and 
chastising,  and  the  vengeance  of  this  outrage,  in  the  will  of  me 
and  of  my  wife,  or  ye  will  not?"  Then  the  wisest  of  them  three 
answered  for  them  all,  and  said;  "Sir,"  quoth  he,  "we  know  well, 
that  we  be  I  unworthy  to  come  to  the  court  of  so  great  a  lord 
and  so  worthy  as  ye  be,  for  we  have  so  greatly  mistaken  us,  and 
have  offended  and  aguilt  [incurred  guilt]  in  such  wise  against 
your  high  lordship,  that  truly  we  have  deserved  the  death.  But 
yet  for  the  great  goodness  and  debonairte  [courtesy,  gentleness] 
that  all  the  world  witnesseth  of  your  person,  we  submit  us  to 
the  excellence  and  benignity  of  your  gracious  lordship,  and  be 
ready  to  obey  to  all  your  commandments,  beseeching  you,  that 
of  your  merciable  [merciful]  pity  ye  will  consider  our  great 
repentance  and  low  submission,  and  grant  us  forgiveness  of  our 
outrageous  trespass  and  offence;  for  well  we  know,  that  your 
liberal  grace  and  mercy  stretch  them  farther  into  goodness,  than 
do  our  outrageous  guilt  and  trespass  into  wickedness;  albeit  that 
cursedly  [wickedly]  and  damnably  we  have  aguilt  [incurred 
guilt]  against  your  high  lordship. "Then  Meliboeus  took  them 
up  from  the  ground  full  benignly,  and  received  their  obligations 
and  their  bonds,  by  their  oaths  upon  their  pledges  and  borrows, 
[sureties]  and  assigned  them  a  certain  day  to  return  unto  his 
court  for  to  receive  and  accept  sentence  and  judgement,  that 
Meliboeus  would  command  to  be  done  on  them,  by  the  causes 
aforesaid;  which  things  ordained,  every  man  returned  home  to 
his  house. 


461 


462 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  when  that  Dame  Prudence  saw  her  time  she  freined 
[inquired]  and  asked  her  lord  Meliboeus,  what  vengeance  he 
thought  to  take  of  his  adversaries.  To  which  Meliboeus 
answered,  and  said;  "Certes,"  quoth  he,  "I  think  and  purpose  me 
fully  to  disinherit  them  of  all  that  ever  they  have,  and  for  to  put 
them  in  exile  for  evermore."  "Certes,"  quoth  Dame  Prudence, 
"this  were  a  cruel  sentence,  and  much  against  reason.  For  ye  be 
rich  enough,  and  have  no  need  of  other  men's  goods;  and  ye 
might  lightly  [easily]  in  this  wise  get  you  a  covetous  name, 
which  is  a  vicious  thing,  and  ought  to  be  eschewed  of  every 
good  man:  for,  after  the  saying  of  the  Apostle,  covetousness  is 
root  of  all  harms.  And  therefore  it  were  better  for  you  to  lose 
much  good  of  your  own,  than  for  to  take  of  their  good  in  this 
manner.  For  better  it  is  to  lose  good  with  worship  [honour], 
than  to  win  good  with  villainy  and  shame.  And  every  man  ought 
to  do  his  diligence  and  his  business  to  get  him  a  good  name. 
And  yet  [further]  shall  he  not  only  busy  him  in  keeping  his  good 
name,  but  he  shall  also  enforce  him  alway  to  do  some  thing  by 
which  he  may  renew  his  good  name;  for  it  is  written,  that  the 
old  good  los  [reputation  <5>]  of  a  man  is  soon  gone  and 
passed,  when  it  is  not  renewed.  And  as  touching  that  ye  say, 
that  ye  will  exile  your  adversaries,  that  thinketh  ye  much  against 
reason,  and  out  of  measure,  [moderation]  considered  the  power 
that  they  have  given  you  upon  themselves.  And  it  is  written, 
that  he  is  worthy  to  lose  his  privilege,  that  misuseth  the  might 
and  the  power  that  is  given  him.  And  I  set  case  [if  I  assume]  ye 
might  enjoin  them  that  pain  by  right  and  by  law  (which  I  trow 
ye  may  not  do),  I  say,  ye  might  not  put  it  to  execution 
peradventure,  and  then  it  were  like  to  return  to  the  war,  as  it 
was  before.  And  therefore  if  ye  will  that  men  do  you  obeisance, 
ye  must  deem  [decide]  more  courteously,  that  is  to  say,  ye  must 
give  more  easy  sentences  and  judgements.  For  it  is  written,  'He 
that  most  courteously  commandeth,  to  him  men  most  obey' 
And  therefore  I  pray  you,  that  in  this  necessity  and  in  this  need 


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ye  cast  you  [endeavour,  devise  a  way]  to  overcome  your  heart. 
For  Seneca  saith,  that  he  that  overcometh  his  heart,  overcometh 
twice.  AndTullius  saith,  'There  is  nothing  so  commendable  in  a 
great  lord,  as  when  he  is  debonair  and  meek,  and  appeaseth  him 
lightly  [easily].'  And  I  pray  you,  that  ye  will  now  forbear  to  do 
vengeance,  in  such  a  manner,  that  your  good  name  maybe  kept 
and  conserved,  and  that  men  may  have  cause  and  matter  to 
praise  you  of  pity  and  of  mercy;  and  that  ye  have  no  cause  to 
repent  you  of  thing  that  ye  do.  For  Seneca  saith,  'He 
overcometh  in  an  evil  manner,  that  repenteth  him  of  his  victory' 
Wherefore  I  pray  you  let  mercy  be  in  your  heart,  to  the  effect 
and  intent  that  God  Almighty  have  mercy  upon  you  in  his  last 
judgement;  for  Saint  James  saith  in  his  Epistle,  'Judgement 
without  mercy  shall  be  done  to  him,  that  hath  no  mercy  of 
another  wight.'" 

When  Meliboeus  had  heard  the  great  skills  [arguments,  reasons] 
and  reasons  of  Dame  Prudence,  and  her  wise  information  and 
teaching,  his  heart  gan  incline  to  the  will  of  his  wife,  considering 
her  true  intent,  he  conformed  him  anon  and  assented  fully  to 
work  after  her  counsel,  and  thanked  God,  of  whom  proceedeth 
all  goodness  and  all  virtue,  that  him  sent  a  wife  of  so  great 
discretion.  And  when  the  day  came  that  his  adversaries  should 
appear  in  his  presence,  he  spake  to  them  full  goodly,  and  said  in 
this  wise;  "Albeit  so,  that  of  your  pride  and  high  presumption 
and  folly,  an  of  your  negligence  and  unconning,  [ignorance]  ye 
have  misborne  [misbehaved]  you,  and  trespassed  [done  injury] 
unto  me,  yet  forasmuch  as  I  see  and  behold  your  great  humility, 
and  that  ye  be  sorry  and  repentant  of  your  guilts,  it  constraineth 
me  to  do  you  grace  and  mercy.  Wherefore  I  receive  you  into  my 
grace,  and  forgive  you  utterly  all  the  offences,  injuries,  and 
wrongs,  that  ye  have  done  against  me  and  mine,  to  this  effect 
and  to  this  end,  that  God  of  his  endless  mercy  will  at  the  time  of 
our  dying  forgive  us  our  guilts,  that  we  have  trespassed  to  him 


463 


464 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


in  this  wretched  world;  for  doubtless,  if  we  be  sorry  and 
repentant  of  the  sins  and  guilts  which  we  have  trespassed  in  the 
sight  of  our  Lord  God,  he  is  so  free  and  so  merciable  [merciful], 
that  he  will  forgive  us  our  guilts,  and  bring  us  to  the  bliss  that 
never  hath  end."  Amen. 


^ 


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465 


The  Prologue. 


WHEN  ended  was  my  tale  of  Melibee, 
And  of  Prudence  and  her  benignity. 
Our  Hoste  said,  "As  I  am  faithful  man. 
And  by  the  precious  corpus  Madrian,<  1  > 
I  had  lever*  than  a  barrel  of  ale. 
That  goode  lefe*  my  wife  had  heard  this  tale; 
For  she  is  no  thing  of  such  patience 
As  was  this  Meliboeus'  wife  Prudence. 
By  Godde's  bones!  when  I  beat  my  knaves 
She  bringeth  me  the  greate  clubbed  staves. 
And  crieth,  'Slay  the  dogges  every  one. 
And  break  of  them  both  back  and  ev'ry  bone.' 
And  if  that  any  neighebour  of  mine 
Will  not  in  church  unto  my  wife  incline. 
Or  be  so  hardy  to  her  to  trespace,* 
When  she  comes  home  she  rampeth*  in  my  face. 
And  crieth,  'False  coward,  wreak*  thy  wife 
By  corpus  Domini,  I  will  have  thy  knife. 
And  thou  shalt  have  my  distaff,  and  go  spin.' 
From  day  till  night  right  thus  she  will  begin. 
'Alas!'  she  saith,  'that  ever  I  was  shape* 
To  wed  a  milksop,  or  a  coward  ape. 
That  will  be  overlad*  with  every  wight! 


*rather 


*dear 


*offend 

*springs 
*avenge 


*destined 


*imposed  on 


466 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Thou  darest  not  stand  by  thy  wife's  right.' 


"This  is  my  life,  *but  if  that  I  will  fight;  *unless 

And  out  at  door  anon  I  must  me  dight,*  *betake  myself 

Or  elles  I  am  lost,  but  if  that  I 

Be,  like  a  wilde  lion,  fool-hardy 

I  wot  well  she  will  do*  me  slay  some  day  *make 

Some  neighebour  and  thenne  *go  my  way;*  *take  to  flight* 

For  I  am  perilous  with  knife  in  hand. 

Albeit  that  I  dare  not  her  withstand; 

For  she  is  big  in  armes,  by  my  faith! 

That  shall  he  fmd,  that  her  misdoth  or  saith.  <2> 

But  let  us  pass  away  from  this  mattere. 

My  lord  the  Monk,"  quoth  he,  "be  merry  of  cheer. 

For  ye  shall  tell  a  tale  truely 

Lo,  Rochester  stands  here  faste  by 

Ride  forth,  mine  owen  lord,  break  not  our  game. 

But  by  my  troth  I  cannot  tell  your  name; 

Whether  shall  I  call  you  my  lord  Dan  John, 

Or  Dan  Thomas,  or  elles  Dan  Albon? 

Of  what  house  be  ye,  by  your  father's  kin? 

I  vow  to  God,  thou  hast  a  full  fair  skin; 

It  is  a  gentle  pasture  where  thou  go'st; 

Thou  art  not  like  a  penant*  or  a  ghost.  *penitent 

Upon  my  faith  thou  art  some  officer. 

Some  worthy  sexton,  or  some  cellarer. 

For  by  my  father's  soul,  *as  to  my  dome,*  *in  my  judgement* 

Thou  art  a  master  when  thou  art  at  home; 

No  poore  cloisterer,  nor  no  novice. 

But  a  governor,  both  wily  and  wise. 

And  therewithal,  of  brawnes*  and  of  bones,  *sinews 

A  right  well-faring  person  for  the  nonce. 

I  pray  to  God  give  him  confusion 

That  first  thee  brought  into  religion. 


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467 


Thou  would'st  have  been  a  treade-fowl*  aright;  *cock 

Hadst  thou  as  greate  leave,  as  thou  hast  might. 

To  perform  all  thy  lust  in  engendrure,*  *generation,  begettting 

Thou  hadst  begotten  many  a  creature. 

Alas!  why  wearest  thou  so  wide  a  cope?  <3> 

God  give  me  sorrow,  but,  an*  I  were  pope,  *if 

Not  only  thou,  but  every  mighty  man. 

Though  he  were  shorn  full  high  upon  his  pan,*  <4>  *crown 

Should  have  a  wife;  for  all  this  world  is  lorn;*         *undone,  ruined 

Religion  hath  ta'en  up  all  the  corn 

Of  treading,  and  we  borel*  men  be  shrimps:  *lay 

Of  feeble  trees  there  come  wretched  imps.*  *shoots  <5> 

This  maketh  that  our  heires  be  so  slender 

And  feeble,  that  they  may  not  well  engender. 

This  maketh  that  our  wives  will  assay 

Religious  folk,  for  they  may  better  pay 

Of  Venus'  payementes  than  may  we: 

God  wot,  no  lusheburghes  <6>  paye  ye. 

But  be  not  wroth,  my  lord,  though  that  I  play; 

Full  oft  in  game  a  sooth  have  I  heard  say." 


This  worthy  Monk  took  all  in  patience. 
And  said,  "I  will  do  all  my  diligence. 
As  far  as  *souneth  unto  honesty,* 
To  telle  you  a  tale,  or  two  or  three. 
And  if  you  list  to  hearken  hitherward, 
I  will  you  say  the  life  of  Saint  Edward; 
Or  elles  first  tragedies  I  will  tell. 
Of  which  I  have  an  hundred  in  my  cell. 
Tragedy  *is  to  say*  a  certain  story. 
As  olde  bookes  maken  us  memory. 
Of  him  that  stood  in  great  prosperity. 
And  is  y- fallen  out  of  high  degree 
In  misery,  and  endeth  wretchedly. 


^agrees  with  good  manners* 


468 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  they  be  versified  commonly 

Of  six  feet,  which  men  call  hexametron; 

In  prose  eke*  be  indited  many  a  one,  *also 

And  eke  in  metre,  in  many  a  sundry  wise. 

Lo,  this  declaring  ought  enough  suffice. 

Now  hearken,  if  ye  like  for  to  hear. 

But  first  I  you  beseech  in  this  mattere. 

Though  I  by  order  telle  not  these  things. 

Be  it  of  popes,  emperors,  or  kings, 

*After  their  ages,*  as  men  written  find,         *in  chronological  order* 

But  tell  them  some  before  and  some  behind. 

As  it  now  Cometh  to  my  remembrance. 

Have  me  excused  of  mine  ignorance." 


The  Tale. 

I  will  bewail,  in  manner  of  tragedy. 
The  harm  of  them  that  stood  in  high  degree. 
And  felle  so,  that  there  was  no  remedy 
To  bring  them  out  of  their  adversity. 
For,  certain,  when  that  Fortune  list  to  flee. 
There  may  no  man  the  course  of  her  wheel  hold: 
Let  no  man  trust  in  blind  prosperity; 
Beware  by  these  examples  true  and  old. 


At  LUCIFER,  though  he  an  angel  were. 

And  not  a  man,  at  him  I  will  begin. 

For  though  Fortune  may  no  angel  dere,*  *hurt 

From  high  degree  yet  fell  he  for  his  sin 

Down  into  hell,  where  as  he  yet  is  in. 

O  Lucifer!  brightest  of  angels  all. 

Now  art  thou  Satanas,  that  may'st  not  twin*  *depart 


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Out  of  the  misery  in  which  thou  art  fall. 


Lo  ADAM,  in  the  field  of  Damascene  <2> 

With  Godde's  owen  finger  wrought  was  he. 

And  not  begotten  of  man's  sperm  unclean; 

And  welt*  all  Paradise  saving  one  tree:  *commanded 

Had  never  worldly  man  so  high  degree 

As  Adam,  till  he  for  misgovernance*  *misbehaviour 

Was  driven  out  of  his  prosperity 

To  labour,  and  to  hell,  and  to  mischance. 


Lo  SAMPSON,  which  that  was  annunciate 

By  the  angel,  long  ere  his  nativity;  <3> 

And  was  to  God  Almighty  consecrate. 

And  stood  in  nobless  while  that  he  might  see; 

Was  never  such  another  as  was  he. 

To  speak  of  strength,  and  thereto  hardiness;*  *courage 

But  to  his  wives  told  he  his  secre. 

Through  which  he  slew  himself  for  wretchedness. 

Sampson,  this  noble  and  mighty  champion, 

Withoute  weapon,  save  his  handes  tway. 

He  slew  and  all  to-rente*  the  lion,  *tore  to  pieces 

Toward  his  wedding  walking  by  the  way. 

His  false  wife  could  him  so  please,  and  pray. 

Till  she  his  counsel  knew;  and  she,  untrue. 

Unto  his  foes  his  counsel  gan  bewray. 

And  him  forsook,  and  took  another  new. 

Three  hundred  foxes  Sampson  took  for  ire. 
And  all  their  tailes  he  together  band. 
And  set  the  foxes'  tailes  all  on  fire, 


469 


470 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  he  in  every  tail  had  knit  a  brand, 
And  they  burnt  all  the  combs  of  that  lend, 
And  all  their  oliveres*  and  vines  eke. 
A  thousand  men  he  slew  eke  with  his  hand. 
And  had  no  weapon  but  an  ass's  cheek. 


*olive  trees  <4> 


When  they  were  slain,  so  thirsted  him,  that  he 

Was  *well-nigh  lorn,*  for  which  he  gan  to  pray       *near  to  perishing* 

That  God  would  on  his  pain  have  some  pity. 

And  send  him  drink,  or  elles  must  he  die; 

And  of  this  ass's  check,  that  was  so  dry. 

Out  of  a  wang-tooth*  sprang  anon  a  well,  *cheek-tooth 

Of  which,  he  drank  enough,  shortly  to  say. 

Thus  help'd  him  God,  as  Judicum  <5>  can  tell. 


By  very  force,  at  Gaza,  on  a  night, 
Maugre*  the  Philistines  of  that  city. 
The  gates  of  the  town  he  hath  up  plight,* 
And  on  his  backy-carried  them  hath  he 
High  on  an  hill,  where  as  men  might  them  see. 
O  noble  mighty  Sampson,  lefe*  and  dear, 
Hadst  thou  not  told  to  women  thy  secre. 
In  all  this  world  there  had  not  been  thy  peer. 


*in  spite  of 
*plucked,  wrenched 


*loved 


This  Sampson  never  cider  drank  nor  wine. 
Nor  on  his  head  came  razor  none  nor  shear. 
By  precept  of  the  messenger  divine; 
For  all  his  strengthes  in  his  haires  were; 
And  fully  twenty  winters,  year  by  year. 
He  had  of  Israel  the  governance; 
But  soone  shall  he  weepe  many  a  tear. 
For  women  shall  him  bringe  to  mischance. 


Unto  his  leman*  Dalila  he  told. 


mistress 


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That  in  his  haires  all  his  strengthe  lay; 

And  falsely  to  his  foemen  she  him  sold. 

And  sleeping  in  her  barme*  upon  a  day  *lap 

She  made  to  clip  or  shear  his  hair  away. 

And  made  his  foemen  all  his  craft  espien. 

And  when  they  founde  him  in  this  array. 

They  bound  him  fast,  and  put  out  both  his  eyen. 


471 


But,  ere  his  hair  was  clipped  or  y-shave. 

There  was  no  bond  with  which  men  might  him  bind; 

But  now  is  he  in  prison  in  a  cave. 

Where  as  they  made  him  at  the  querne*  grind. 

O  noble  Sampson,  strongest  of  mankind! 

O  whilom  judge  in  glory  and  ri chess! 

Now  may'st  thou  weepe  with  thine  eyen  blind. 

Since  thou  from  weal  art  fall'n  to  wretchedness. 


*mill  <6> 


Th'end  of  this  caitifP  was  as  I  shall  say; 

His  foemen  made  a  feast  upon  a  day. 

And  made  him  as  their  fool  before  them  play; 

And  this  was  in  a  temple  of  great  array. 

But  at  the  last  he  made  a  foul  affray. 

For  he  two  pillars  shook,  and  made  them  fall. 

And  down  fell  temple  and  all,  and  there  it  lay. 

And  slew  himself  and  eke  his  foemen  all; 


*wretched  man 


This  is  to  say,  the  princes  every  one; 

And  eke  three  thousand  bodies  were  there  slain 

With  falling  of  the  great  temple  of  stone. 

Of  Sampson  now  will  I  no  more  sayn; 

Beware  by  this  example  old  and  plain. 

That  no  man  tell  his  counsel  to  his  wife 

Of  such  thing  as  he  would  *have  secret  fain,* 

If  that  it  touch  his  limbes  or  his  life. 


*wish  to  be  secret* 


472 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Of  HERCULES  the  sov'reign  conquerour 
Singe  his  workes'  land  and  high  renown; 
For  in  his  time  of  strength  he  bare  the  flow'r. 
He  slew  and  reft  the  skin  of  the  lion 
He  of  the  Centaurs  laid  the  boast  adown; 
He  Harpies  <7>  slew,  the  cruel  birdes  fell; 
He  golden  apples  reft  from  the  dragon 
He  drew  out  Cerberus  the  hound  of  hell. 

He  slew  the  cruel  tyrant  Busirus.  <8> 

And  made  his  horse  to  fret*  him  flesh  and  bone; 

He  slew  the  fiery  serpent  venomous; 

Of  Achelous'  two  homes  brake  he  one. 

And  he  slew  Cacus  in  a  cave  of  stone; 

He  slew  the  giant  Antaeus  the  strong; 

He  slew  the  grisly  boar,  and  that  anon; 

And  bare  the  heav'n  upon  his  necke  long.  <9> 

Was  never  wight,  since  that  the  world  began. 
That  slew  so  many  monsters  as  did  he; 
Throughout  the  wide  world  his  name  ran. 
What  for  his  strength,  and  for  his  high  bounte; 
And  every  realme  went  he  for  to  see; 
He  was  so  strong  that  no  man  might  him  let;* 
At  both  the  worlde's  ends,  as  saithTrophee,  <10> 
Instead  of  boundes  he  a  pillar  set. 

A  leman  had  this  noble  champion. 
That  highte  Dejanira,  fresh  as  May; 
And,  as  these  clerkes  make  mention. 
She  hath  him  sent  a  shirte  fresh  and  gay; 
Alas!  this  shirt,  alas  and  well- away! 


*devou 


*withstand 


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Envenomed  was  sub tilly  withal. 

That  ere  that  he  had  worn  it  half  a  day. 

It  made  his  flesh  all  from  his  bones  fall. 


But  natheless  some  clerkes  her  excuse 

By  one,  that  highte  Nessus,  that  it  maked; 

Be  as  he  may,  I  will  not  her  accuse; 

But  on  his  back  this  shirt  he  wore  all  naked. 

Till  that  his  flesh  was  for  the  venom  blaked.' 

And  when  he  saw  none  other  remedy. 

In  bote  coals  he  hath  himselfe  raked, 

For  with  no  venom  deigned  he  to  die. 


473 


Thus  sterP  this  worthy  mighty  Hercules. 
Lo,  who  may  trust  on  Fortune  *any  throw?* 
For  him  that  followeth  all  this  world  of  pres,* 
Ere  he  be  ware,  is  often  laid  full  low; 
Full  wise  is  he  that  can  himselfe  know. 
Beware,  for  when  that  Fortune  list  to  glose 
Then  waiteth  she  her  man  to  overthrow. 
By  such  a  way  as  he  would  least  suppose. 


The  mighty  throne,  the  precious  treasor. 
The  glorious  sceptre,  and  royal  majesty. 
That  had  the  king  NABUCHODONOSOR 
With  tongue  unnethes*  may  described  be. 
He  twice  won  Jerusalem  the  city. 
The  vessels  of  the  temple  he  with  him  lad;* 
At  Babylone  was  his  sov'reign  see,* 
In  which  his  glory  and  delight  he  had. 


The  fairest  children  of  the  blood  royal 
Of  Israel  he  *did  do  geld*  anon. 


*blackened 


*died 
*for  a  moment* 
*near  <  1 1  > 


*scarcely 

*took  away 
*seat 


*caused  to  be  castrated* 


474 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  maked  each  of  them  to  be  his  thrall.* 
Amonges  others  Daniel  was  one, 
That  was  the  wisest  child  of  every  one; 
For  he  the  dreames  of  the  king  expounded, 
Where  in  Chaldaea  clerkes  was  there  none 
That  wiste  to  what  fine*  his  dreames  sounded. 


*slave 


*end 


This  proude  king  let  make  a  statue  of  gold 
Sixty  cubites  long,  and  seven  in  bread'. 
To  which  image  hathe  young  and  old 
Commanded  he  to  lout,*  and  have  in  dread. 
Or  in  a  furnace,  full  of  flames  red. 
He  should  be  burnt  that  woulde  not  obey: 
But  never  would  assente  to  that  deed 
Daniel,  nor  his  younge  fellows  tway. 


*bow  down  to 


This  king  of  kinges  proud  was  and  elate;* 
He  ween'd*  that  God,  that  sits  in  majesty, 
Mighte  him  not  bereave  of  his  estate; 
But  suddenly  he  lost  his  dignity. 
And  like  a  beast  he  seemed  for  to  be. 
And  ate  hay  as  an  ox,  and  lay  thereout 
In  rain,  with  wilde  beastes  walked  he. 
Till  certain  time  was  y-come  about. 


*lofty 
*thought 


And  like  an  eagle  s  feathers  wax'd  his  hairs. 

His  nailes  like  a  birde's  clawes  were. 

Till  God  released  him  at  certain  years. 

And  gave  him  wit;  and  then  with  many  a  tear 

He  thanked  God,  and  ever  his  life  in  fear 

Was  he  to  do  amiss,  or  more  trespace: 

And  till  that  time  he  laid  was  on  his  bier. 

He  knew  that  God  was  full  of  might  and  grace. 


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475 


His  sone,  which  that  highte  BALTHAS AR, 

That  *held  the  regne*  after  his  father's  day,    *possessed  the  kingdom* 

He  by  his  father  coulde  not  beware. 

For  proud  he  was  of  heart  and  of  array; 

And  eke  an  idolaster  was  he  aye. 

His  high  estate  assured*  him  in  pride;  *confirmed 

But  Fortune  cast  him  down,  and  there  he  lay. 

And  suddenly  his  regne  gan  divide. 


A  feast  he  made  unto  his  lordes  all 
Upon  a  time,  and  made  them  blithe  be. 
And  then  his  officeres  gan  he  call; 
"Go,  bringe  forth  the  vessels,"  saide  he, 
"Which  that  my  father  in  his  prosperity 
Out  of  the  temple  of  Jerusalem  reft. 
And  to  our  highe  goddes  thanks  we 
Of  honour,  that  our  elders*  with  us  left." 


*forefathers 


His  wife,  his  lordes,  and  his  concubines 
Aye  dranke,  while  their  appetites  did  last. 
Out  of  these  noble  vessels  sundry  wines. 
And  on  a  wall  this  king  his  eyen  cast. 
And  saw  an  hand,  armless,  that  wrote  full  fast; 
For  fear  of  which  he  quaked,  and  sighed  sore. 
This  hand,  that  Balthasar  so  sore  aghast,* 
Wrote  Mane,  tekel,  phares,  and  no  more. 


*dismayed 


In  all  that  land  magician  was  there  none 
That  could  expounde  what  this  letter  meant. 
But  Daniel  expounded  it  anon. 
And  said,  "O  King,  God  to  thy  father  lent 
Glory  and  honour,  regne,  treasure,  rent;* 
And  he  was  proud,  and  nothing  God  he  drad;* 


revenue 
*dreaded 


476 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  therefore  God  great  wreche*  upon  him  sent,  Vengeance 

And  him  bereft  the  regne  that  he  had. 

"He  was  cast  out  of  manne's  company; 
With  asses  was  his  habitation 
And  ate  hay,  as  a  beast,  in  wet  and  dry. 
Till  that  he  knew  by  grace  and  by  reason 
That  God  of  heaven  hath  domination 
O'er  every  regne,  and  every  creature; 
And  then  had  God  of  him  compassion. 
And  him  restor'd  his  regne  and  his  figure. 

"Eke  thou,  that  art  his  son,  art  proud  also. 

And  knowest  all  these  thinges  verily; 

And  art  rebel  to  God,  and  art  his  foe. 

Thou  drankest  of  his  vessels  boldely; 

Thy  wife  eke,  and  thy  wenches,  sinfully 

Drank  of  the  same  vessels  sundry  wines. 

And  heried*  false  goddes  cursedly;  *praised 

Therefore  *to  thee  y-shapen  full  great  pine  is.*    *great  punishment  is 

prepared  for  thee* 
"This  hand  was  sent  from  God,  that  on  the  wall 
Wrote  Mane,  tekel,  phares,  truste  me; 
Thy  reign  is  done;  thou  weighest  naught  at  all; 
Divided  is  thy  regne,  and  it  shall  be 
To  Medes  and  to  Persians  giv'n,"  quoth  he. 
And  thilke  same  night  this  king  was  slaw*  *slain 

And  Darius  occupied  his  degree. 
Though  he  thereto  had  neither  right  nor  law. 


Lordings,  example  hereby  may  ye  take. 
How  that  in  lordship  is  no  sickerness;* 
For  when  that  Fortune  will  a  man  forsake. 
She  bears  away  his  regne  and  his  ri chess. 


security 


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And  eke  his  friendes  bothe  more  and  less. 
For  what  man  that  hath  friendes  through  fortune. 
Mishap  will  make  them  enemies,  I  guess; 
This  proverb  is  full  sooth,  and  full  commune. 


477 


ZENOBIA,  of  Palmyrie  the  queen,  <12> 

As  write  Persians  of  her  nobless. 

So  worthy  was  in  armes,  and  so  keen. 

That  no  wight  passed  her  in  hardiness. 

Nor  in  lineage,  nor  other  gentleness.*  *noble  qualities 

Of  the  king's  blood  of  Perse*  is  she  descended;  *Persia 

I  say  not  that  she  hadde  most  fairness. 

But  of  her  shape  she  might  not  he  amended. 


From  her  childhood  I  finde  that  she  fled 
Office  of  woman,  and  to  woods  she  went. 
And  many  a  wilde  harte's  blood  she  shed 
With  arrows  broad  that  she  against  them  sent; 
She  was  so  swift,  that  she  anon  them  hent.* 
And  when  that  she  was  older,  she  would  kill 
Lions,  leopards,  and  beares  all  to-rent,* 
And  in  her  armes  wield  them  at  her  will. 


*caught 


torn  to  pieces 


She  durst  the  wilde  beastes'  dennes  seek. 
And  runnen  in  the  mountains  all  the  night. 
And  sleep  under  a  bush;  and  she  could  eke 
Wrestle  by  very  force  and  very  might 
With  any  young  man,  were  he  ne'er  so  wight;* 
There  mighte  nothing  in  her  armes  stond. 
She  kept  her  maidenhood  from  every  wight. 
To  no  man  deigned  she  for  to  be  bond. 


*active,  nimble 


But  at  the  last  her  friendes  have  her  married 


478 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


To  Odenate,  <13>  a  prince  of  that  country; 

All  were  it  so,  that  she  them  longe  tarried. 

And  ye  shall  understande  how  that  he 

Hadde  such  fantasies  as  hadde  she; 

But  natheless,  when  they  were  knit  in  fere,* 

They  liv'd  in  joy,  and  in  felicity. 

For  each  of  them  had  other  lefe*  and  dear. 


*together 
*loved 


Save  one  thing,  that  she  never  would  assent. 
By  no  way,  that  he  shoulde  by  her  lie 
But  ones,  for  it  was  her  plain  intent 
To  have  a  child,  the  world  to  multiply; 
And  all  so  soon  as  that  she  might  espy 
That  she  was  not  with  childe  by  that  deed. 
Then  would  she  suffer  him  do  his  fantasy 
Eftsoon,*  and  not  but  ones,  *out  of  dread.* 

And  if  she  were  with  child  at  thilke*  cast. 

No  more  should  he  playe  thilke  game 

Till  fully  forty  dayes  were  past; 

Then  would  she  once  suffer  him  do  the  same. 

All*  were  this  Odenatus  wild  or  tame. 

He  got  no  more  of  her;  for  thus  she  said. 

It  was  to  wives  lechery  and  shame 

In  other  case*  if  that  men  with  them  play'd. 


*again  *without  doubt* 


*that 


*whether 


on  other  terms 


Two  sones,  by  this  Odenate  had  she. 

The  which  she  kept  in  virtue  and  lettrure.* 

But  now  unto  our  tale  turne  we; 

I  say,  so  worshipful  a  creature. 

And  wise  therewith,  and  large*  with  measure,^ 

So  penible*  in  the  war,  and  courteous  eke. 

Nor  more  labour  might  in  war  endure. 

Was  none,  though  all  this  worlde  men  should  seek. 


*learning 


hountiful  **moderation 
*laborious 


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479 


Her  rich  array  it  mighte  not  be  told. 

As  well  in  vessel  as  in  her  clothing: 

She  was  all  clad  in  pierrie*  and  in  gold,  *jewellery 

And  eke  she  *lefte  not,*  for  no  hunting,  *did  not  neglect* 

To  have  of  sundry  tongues  full  knowing. 

When  that  she  leisure  had,  and  for  t'intend*  *^Ppty 

To  learne  bookes  was  all  her  liking. 

How  she  in  virtue  might  her  life  dispend. 


And,  shortly  of  this  story  for  to  treat. 
So  doughty  was  her  husband  and  eke  she. 
That  they  conquered  many  regnes  great 
In  th'Orient,  with  many  a  fair  city 
Appertinent  unto  the  majesty 
Of  Rome,  and  with  strong  hande  held  them  fast. 
Nor  ever  might  their  foemen  do*  them  flee. 
Aye  while  that  Odenatus'  dayes  last'. 


*make 


Her  battles,  whoso  list  them  for  to  read. 
Against  Sapor  the  king,  <14>  and  other  mo'. 
And  how  that  all  this  process  fell  in  deed. 
Why  she  conquer'd,  and  what  title  thereto. 
And  after  of  her  mischief  and  her  woe. 
How  that  she  was  besieged  and  y-take. 
Let  him  unto  my  master  Petrarch  go. 
That  writes  enough  of  this,  I  undertake. 


*misfortune 


When  Odenate  was  dead,  she  mightily 

The  regne  held,  and  with  her  proper  hand 

Against  her  foes  she  fought  so  cruelly. 

That  there  n'as*  king  nor  prince  in  all  that  land. 

That  was  not  glad,  if  be  that  grace  fand 

That  she  would  not  upon  his  land  warray;* 


was  not 


*make  war 


480 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


With  her  they  maden  alliance  by  bond, 
To  be  in  peace,  and  let  her  ride  and  play 

The  emperor  of  Rome,  Claudius, 

Nor,  him  before,  the  Roman  Gallien, 

Durste  never  be  so  courageous. 

Nor  no  Armenian,  nor  Egyptien, 

Nor  Syrian,  nor  no  Arabien, 

Within  the  fielde  durste  with  her  fight. 

Lest  that  she  would  them  with  her  handes  slen,*  *slay 

Or  with  her  meinie*  putte  them  to  flight.  *troops 

In  kinges'  habit  went  her  sones  two. 
As  heires  of  their  father's  regnes  all; 
And  Heremanno  andTimolao 
Their  names  were,  as  Persians  them  call 
But  aye  Fortune  hath  in  her  honey  gall; 
This  mighty  queene  may  no  while  endure; 
Fortune  out  of  her  regne  made  her  fall 
To  wretchedness  and  to  misadventure. 

Aurelian,  when  that  the  governance 

Of  Rome  came  into  his  handes  tway,  <15> 

He  shope*  upon  this  queen  to  do  vengeance;  *prepared 

And  with  his  legions  he  took  his  way 

Toward  Zenobie,  and,  shortly  for  to  say. 

He  made  her  flee,  and  at  the  last  her  hent,*  *took 

And  fetter'd  her,  and  eke  her  children  tway. 

And  won  the  land,  and  home  to  Rome  he  went. 

Amonges  other  thinges  that  he  wan. 

Her  car,  that  was  with  gold  wrought  and  pierrie,*  *jewels 

This  greate  Roman,  this  Aurelian 

Hath  with  him  led,  for  that  men  should  it  see. 


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Before  in  his  triumphe  walked  she 

With  gilte  chains  upon  her  neck  hanging; 

Crowned  she  was,  as  after*  her  degree,  *according  to 

And  full  of  pierrie  her  clothing. 


481 


Alas,  Fortune!  she  that  whilom  was 
Dreadful  to  kinges  and  to  emperours. 
Now  galeth*  all  the  people  on  her,  alas! 
And  she  that  *helmed  was  in  starke  stowres,* 
And  won  by  force  townes  strong  and  tow'rs. 
Shall  on  her  head  now  wear  a  vitremite;  <16> 
And  she  that  bare  the  sceptre  full  of  flow'rs 
Shall  bear  a  distaff,  *her  cost  for  to  quite.* 


*yelleth 
*wore  a  helmet  in 
obstinate  battles* 


to  make  her  living* 


Although  that  NERO  were  so  vicious 

As  any  fiend  that  lies  full  low  adown. 

Yet  he,  as  telleth  us  Suetonius,<17> 

This  wide  world  had  in  subjectioun. 

Both  East  and  West,  South  and  Septentrioun. 

Of  rubies,  sapphires,  and  of  pearles  white 

Were  all  his  clothes  embroider'd  up  and  down. 

For  he  in  gemmes  greatly  gan  delight. 

More  delicate,  more  pompous  of  array. 

More  proud,  was  never  emperor  than  he; 

That  *ilke  cloth*  that  he  had  worn  one  day,  *same  robe* 

After  that  time  he  would  it  never  see; 

Nettes  of  gold  thread  had  he  great  plenty. 

To  fish  in  Tiber,  when  him  list  to  play; 

His  lustes*  were  as  law,  in  his  degree,  *pleasures 

For  Fortune  as  his  friend  would  him  obey. 

He  Rome  burnt  for  his  delicacy;*  *pleasure 


482 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  senators  he  slew  upon  a  day, 

To  heare  how  that  men  would  weep  and  cry; 

And  slew  his  brother,  and  by  his  sister  lay 

His  mother  made  he  in  piteous  array; 

For  he  her  wombe  slitte,  to  behold 

Where  he  conceived  was;  so  well-away! 

That  he  so  little  of  his  mother  told.*  Valued 

No  tear  out  of  his  eyen  for  that  sight 

Came;  but  he  said,  a  fair  woman  was  she. 

Great  wonder  is,  how  that  he  could  or  might 

Be  doomesman*  of  her  deade  beauty:  *judge 

The  wine  to  bringe  him  commanded  he. 

And  drank  anon;  none  other  woe  he  made. 

When  might  is  joined  unto  cruelty, 

Alas!  too  deepe  will  the  venom  wade. 


*literature,  learning 


*subtle 


In  youth  a  master  had  this  emperour. 

To  teache  him  lettrure*  and  courtesy; 

For  of  morality  he  was  the  flow'r. 

As  in  his  time,  *but  iP  bookes  lie.  *unless 

And  while  this  master  had  of  him  mast'ry. 

He  made  him  so  conning  and  so  souple,* 

That  longe  time  it  was  ere  tyranny. 

Or  any  vice,  durst  in  him  uncouple.*  *be  let  loose 

This  Seneca,  of  which  that  I  devise,*  *tell 

Because  Nero  had  of  him  suche  dread. 

For  he  from  vices  would  him  aye  chastise 

Discreetly,  as  by  word,  and  not  by  deed; 

"Sir,"  he  would  say,  "an  emperor  must  need 

Be  virtuous,  and  hate  tyranny." 

For  which  he  made  him  in  a  bath  to  bleed 

On  both  his  armes,  till  he  muste  die. 


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This  Nero  had  eke  of  a  custumance*  *habit 

In  youth  against  his  master  for  to  rise;*         *stand  in  his  presence 

Which  afterward  he  thought  a  great  grievance; 

Therefore  he  made  him  dien  in  this  wise. 

But  natheless  this  Seneca  the  wise 

Chose  in  a  bath  to  die  in  this  mannere. 

Rather  than  have  another  tormentise;*  *torture 

And  thus  hath  Nero  slain  his  master  dear. 

Now  fell  it  so,  that  Fortune  list  no  longer 

The  highe  pride  of  Nero  to  cherice;*  *cherish 

For  though  he  were  strong,  yet  was  she  stronger. 

She  thoughte  thus;  "By  God,  I  am  too  nice*  *foolish 

To  set  a  man,  that  is  full  fdl'd  of  vice. 

In  high  degree,  and  emperor  him  call! 

By  God,  out  of  his  seat  I  will  him  trice!*  *thrust  <18> 

When  he  least  weeneth,*  soonest  shall  he  fall."  *expecteth 

The  people  rose  upon  him  on  a  night. 

For  his  default;  and  when  he  it  espied. 

Out  of  his  doors  anon  he  hath  him  dight*  *betaken  himself 

Alone,  and  where  he  ween'd  t'have  been  allied,*  *regarded  with 

He  knocked  fast,  and  aye  the  more  he  cried  friendship 

The  faster  shutte  they  their  doores  all; 

Then  wist  he  well  he  had  himself  misgied,*  *misled 

And  went  his  way,  no  longer  durst  he  call. 

The  people  cried  and  rumbled  up  and  down. 

That  with  his  eares  heard  he  how  they  said; 

"Where  is  this  false  tyrant,  this  Neroun?" 

For  fear  almost  out  of  his  wit  he  braid,*  *went 

And  to  his  goddes  piteously  he  pray'd 

For  succour,  but  it  mighte  not  betide 


483 


484 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  dread  of  this  he  thoughte  that  died, 
And  ran  into  a  garden  him  to  hide. 

And  in  this  garden  found  he  churles  tway, 
That  satte  by  a  fire  great  and  red; 
And  to  these  churles  two  he  gan  to  pray 
To  slay  him,  and  to  girdon*  off  his  head. 
That  to  his  body,  when  that  he  were  dead. 
Were  no  despite  done  for  his  defame.* 
Himself  he  slew,  *he  coud  no  better  rede;* 
Of  which  Fortune  laugh'd  and  hadde  game. 


*strike 

*infamy 
*he  knew  no  better 
counsel* 


Was  never  capitain  under  a  king. 

That  regnes  more  put  in  subjectioun. 

Nor  stronger  was  in  field  of  alle  thing 

As  in  his  time,  nor  greater  of  renown. 

Nor  more  pompous  in  high  presumptioun. 

Than  HOLOFERNES,  whom  Fortune  aye  kiss'd 

So  lik'rously,  and  led  him  up  and  down. 

Till  that  his  head  was  off  *ere  that  he  wist.*        *before  he  knew  it* 


Not  only  that  this  world  had  of  him  awe. 

For  losing  of  richess  and  liberty; 

But  he  made  every  man  *reny  his  law* 

Nabuchodonosor  was  God,  said  he; 

None  other  Godde  should  honoured  be. 

Against  his  best*  there  dare  no  wight  trespace. 

Save  in  Bethulia,  a  strong  city. 

Where  Eliachim  priest  was  of  that  place. 

But  take  keep*  of  the  death  of  Holofern; 
Amid  his  host  he  drunken  lay  at  night 
Within  his  tente,  large  as  is  a  bern;* 


renounce  his  religion  <19> 


*command 


notice 


*barn 


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And  yet,  for  all  his  pomp  and  all  his  might, 
Judith,  a  woman,  as  he  lay  upright 
Sleeping,  his  head  off  smote,  and  from  his  tent 
Full  privily  she  stole  from  every  wight. 
And  with  his  head  unto  her  town  she  went. 


485 


What  needeth  it  of  king  ANTIOCHUS  <20> 
To  tell  his  high  and  royal  majesty. 
His  great  pride,  and  his  workes  venomous? 
For  such  another  was  there  none  as  he; 
Reade  what  that  he  was  in  Maccabee. 
And  read  the  proude  wordes  that  he  said. 
And  why  he  fell  from  his  prosperity. 
And  in  an  hill  how  wretchedly  he  died. 

Fortune  him  had  enhanced  so  in  pride. 
That  verily  he  ween'd  he  might  attain 
Unto  the  starres  upon  every  side. 
And  in  a  balance  weighen  each  mountain. 
And  all  the  floodes  of  the  sea  restrain. 
And  Godde's  people  had  he  most  in  hate 
Them  would  he  slay  in  torment  and  in  pain. 
Weening  that  God  might  not  his  pride  abate. 

And  for  that  Nicanor  andTimothee 
With  Jewes  were  vanquish'd  mightily,  <21  > 
Unto  the  Jewes  such  an  hate  had  he. 
That  he  bade  *graith  his  car*  full  hastily. 
And  swore  and  saide  full  dispiteously. 
Unto  Jerusalem  he  would  eftsoon,* 
To  wreak  his  ire  on  it  full  cruelly 
But  of  his  purpose  was  he  let*  full  soon. 


*prepare  his  chariot* 
*immediately 
*prevented 


486 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


God  for  his  menace  him  so  sore  smote, 

With  invisible  wound  incurable, 

That  in  his  guttes  carP  it  so  and  bote,**  *cut  **gnawed 

Till  that  his  paines  were  importable;*  *unendurable 

And  certainly  the  wreche*  was  reasonable,  *vengeance 

For  many  a  manne's  guttes  did  he  pain; 

But  from  his  purpose,  curs'd*  and  damnable,  *impious 

For  all  his  smart  he  would  him  not  restrain; 

But  bade  anon  apparaile*  his  host.  *prepare 

And  suddenly,  ere  he  was  of  it  ware, 

God  daunted  all  his  pride,  and  all  his  boast 

For  he  so  sore  fell  out  of  his  chare,*  *chariot 

That  it  his  limbes  and  his  skin  to-tare. 

So  that  he  neither  mighte  go  nor  ride 

But  in  a  chaire  men  about  him  bare, 

Alle  forbruised  bothe  back  and  side. 

The  wreche*  of  God  him  smote  so  cruelly,  *vengeance 

That  through  his  body  wicked  wormes  crept. 

And  therewithal  he  stank  so  horribly 

That  none  of  all  his  meinie*  that  him  kept,  *servants 

Whether  so  that  he  woke  or  elles  slept, 

Ne  mighte  not  of  him  the  stink  endure. 

In  this  mischief  he  wailed  and  eke  wept. 

And  knew  God  Lord  of  every  creature. 

To  all  his  host,  and  to  himself  also. 

Full  wlatsem*  was  the  stink  of  his  carrain;**  *loathsome  **body 

No  manne  might  him  beare  to  and  fro. 

And  in  this  stink,  and  this  horrible  pain. 

He  starP  full  wretchedly  in  a  mountain.  *dies 

Thus  hath  this  robber,  and  this  homicide. 

That  many  a  manne  made  to  weep  and  plain. 


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Such  guerdon*  as  belongeth  unto  pride.  *reward 


The  story  of  ALEXANDER  is  so  commune. 
That  ev'ry  wight  that  hath  discretion 
Hath  heard  somewhat  or  all  of  his  fortune. 
This  wide  world,  as  in  conclusion. 
He  won  by  strength;  or,  for  his  high  renown. 
They  were  glad  for  peace  to  him  to  send. 
The  pride  and  boast  of  man  he  laid  adown, 
Whereso  he  came,  unto  the  worlde's  end. 

Comparison  yet  never  might  be  maked 
Between  him  and  another  conqueror; 
For  all  this  world  for  dread  of  him  had  quaked 
He  was  of  knighthood  and  of  freedom  flow'r: 
Fortune  him  made  the  heir  of  her  honour. 
Save  wine  and  women,  nothing  might  assuage 
His  high  intent  in  arms  and  labour. 
So  was  he  full  of  leonine  courage. 

What  praise  were  it  to  him,  though  I  you  told 

Of  Darius,  and  a  hundred  thousand  mo'. 

Of  kinges,  princes,  dukes,  and  earles  bold. 

Which  he  conquer'd,  and  brought  them  into  woe? 

I  say,  as  far  as  man  may  ride  or  go. 

The  world  was  his,  why  should  I  more  devise?*  *tell 

For,  though  I  wrote  or  told  you  evermo'. 

Of  his  knighthood  it  mighte  not  suffice. 

Twelve  years  he  reigned,  as  saith  Maccabee 

Philippe's  son  of  Macedon  he  was. 

That  first  was  king  in  Greece  the  country. 

O  worthy  gentle*  Alexander,  alas  *noble 


488 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  ever  should  thee  falle  such  a  case! 
Empoison'd  of  thine  owen  folk  thou  were; 
Thy  six  <22>  fortune  hath  turn'd  into  an  ace, 
And  yet  for  thee  she  wepte  never  a  tear. 

Who  shall  me  give  teares  to  complain 

The  death  of  gentiless,  and  of  franchise,*  *generosity 

That  all  this  worlde  had  in  his  demaine,*  *dominion 

And  yet  he  thought  it  mighte  not  suffice. 

So  full  was  his  corage*  of  high  emprise?  *spirit 

Alas!  who  shall  me  helpe  to  indite 

False  Fortune,  and  poison  to  despise? 

The  whiche  two  of  all  this  woe  I  wite.*  *blame 


By  wisdom,  manhood,  and  by  great  labour. 

From  humbleness  to  royal  majesty 

Up  rose  he,  JULIUS  the  Conquerour, 

That  won  all  th'  Occident,*  by  land  and  sea,  *West 

By  strength  of  hand  or  elles  by  treaty. 

And  unto  Rome  made  them  tributary; 

And  since*  of  Rome  the  emperor  was  he,  *afterwards 

Till  that  Fortune  wax'd  his  adversary. 

O  mighty  Caesar,  that  in  Thessaly 

Against  POMPEIUS,  father  thine  in  law,  <23> 

That  of  th'  Orient  had  all  the  chivalry. 

As  far  as  that  the  day  begins  to  daw. 

That  through  thy  knighthood  hast  them  take  and  slaw,*  slain 

Save  fewe  folk  that  with  Pompeius  fled; 

Through  which  thou  put  all  th'  Orient  in  awe;  <24> 

Thanke  Fortune  that  so  well  thee  sped. 

But  now  a  little  while  I  will  bewail 


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This  Pompeius,  this  noble  governor 

Of  Rome,  which  that  fled  at  this  battaile 

I  say,  one  of  his  men,  a  false  traitor. 

His  head  off  smote,  to  winne  him  favor 

Of  Julius,  and  him  the  head  he  brought; 

Alas!  Pompey,  of  th'  Orient  conqueror. 

That  Fortune  unto  such  a  fme*  thee  brought!  *end 


To  Rome  again  repaired  Julius, 

With  his  triumphe  laureate  full  high; 

But  on  a  time  Brutus  and  Cassius, 

That  ever  had  of  his  estate  envy. 

Full  privily  have  made  conspiracy 

Against  this  Julius  in  subtle  wise 

And  cast*  the  place  in  which  he  shoulde  die. 

With  bodekins,*  as  I  shall  you  devise.** 


489 


This  Julius  to  the  Capitole  went 
Upon  a  day,  as  he  was  wont  to  gon; 
And  in  the  Capitol  anon  him  hent* 
This  false  Brutus,  and  his  other  fone,* 
And  sticked  him  with  bodekins  anon 
With  many  a  wound,  and  thus  they  let  him  lie. 
But  never  groan'd  he  at  no  stroke  but  one. 
Or  else  at  two,  *but  iP  the  story  lie. 


*arranged 
*daggers  **tell 


*seized 
*foes 


*unless 


So  manly  was  this  Julius  of  heart. 

And  so  well  loved  *estately  honesty  *dignified  propriety* 

That,  though  his  deadly  woundes  sore  smart,*  *pained  him 

His  mantle  o'er  his  hippes  caste  he. 

That  ne  man  shoulde  see  his  privity 

And  as  he  lay  a-dying  in  a  trance. 

And  wiste  verily  that  dead  was  he. 

Of  honesty  yet  had  he  remembrance. 


490 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Lucan,  to  thee  this  story  I  recommend, 

And  to  Sueton,  and  Valerie  also, 

That  of  this  story  write  *word  and  end* 

How  that  to  these  great  conquerores  two 

Fortune  was  first  a  friend,  and  since*  a  foe. 

No  manne  trust  upon  her  favour  long. 

But  *have  her  in  await  for  evermo';*       *ever  be  watchful  against  her* 

Witness  on  all  these  conquerores  strong. 


*the  whole*  <25> 


*afterwards 


The  riche  CROESUS,  <26>  whilom  king  of  Lyde,  — 

Of  which  Croesus  Cyrus  him  sore  drad,*  — 

Yet  was  he  caught  amiddes  all  his  pride. 

And  to  be  burnt  men  to  the  fire  him  lad; 

But  such  a  rain  down  *from  the  welkin  shad,* 

That  slew  the  fire,  and  made  him  to  escape: 

But  to  beware  no  grace  yet  he  had. 

Till  fortune  on  the  gallows  made  him  gape. 


*dreaded 


poured  from  the  sky* 


When  he  escaped  was,  he  could  not  stint* 
For  to  begin  a  newe  war  again; 
He  weened  well,  for  that  Fortune  him  sent 
Such  hap,  that  he  escaped  through  the  rain. 
That  of  his  foes  he  mighte  not  be  slain. 
And  eke  a  sweven*  on  a  night  he  mette,** 
Of  which  he  was  so  proud,  and  eke  so  fain,* 
That  he  in  vengeance  all  his  hearte  set. 


*refrain 


*dream  **dreamed 
*glad 


Upon  a  tree  he  was  set,  as  he  thought. 
Where  Jupiter  him  wash'd,  both  back  and  side. 
And  Phoebus  eke  a  fair  towel  him  brought 
To  dry  him  with;  and  therefore  wax'd  his  pride. 
And  to  his  daughter  that  stood  him  beside. 


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Which  he  knew  in  high  science  to  abound. 

He  bade  her  tell  him  what  it  signified; 

And  she  his  dream  began  right  thus  expound. 


491 


"The  tree,"  quoth  she,  "the  gallows  is  to  mean. 
And  Jupiter  betokens  snow  and  rain. 
And  Phoebus,  with  his  towel  clear  and  clean. 
These  be  the  sunne's  streames*  sooth  to  sayn; 
Thou  shalt  y-hangeth  be,  father,  certain; 
Rain  shall  thee  wash,  and  sunne  shall  thee  dry." 
Thus  warned  him  full  plat  and  eke  full  plain 
His  daughter,  which  that  called  was  Phanie. 


rays 


And  hanged  was  Croesus  the  proude  king; 

His  royal  throne  might  him  not  avail. 

Tragedy  is  none  other  manner  thing. 

Nor  can  in  singing  crien  nor  bewail. 

But  for  that  Fortune  all  day  will  assail 

With  unware  stroke  the  regnes*  that  be  proud:  < 27 > 

For  when  men  truste  her,  then  will  she  fail. 

And  cover  her  bright  face  with  a  cloud. 


*kingdoms 


O  noble,  O  worthy  PEDRO,  <28>  glory  OF  SPAIN, 

Whem  Fortune  held  so  high  in  majesty. 

Well  oughte  men  thy  piteous  death  complain. 

Out  of  thy  land  thy  brother  made  thee  flee. 

And  after,  at  a  siege,  by  subtlety. 

Thou  wert  betray 'd,  and  led  unto  his  tent. 

Where  as  he  with  his  owen  hand  slew  thee. 

Succeeding  in  thy  regne*  and  in  thy  rent.** 


^kingdom  *revenues 


The  field  of  snow,  with  th'  eagle  of  black  therein. 

Caught  with  the  lion,  red-colour 'd  as  the  glede,*  *burning  coal 


492 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


He  brew'd  this  cursedness,*  and  all  this  sin;      Vickedness,  villainy 

The  wicked  nest  was  worker  of  this  deed; 

Not  Charles'  Oliver,  <29>  that  took  aye  heed 

Of  truth  and  honour,  but  of  Armorike 

Ganilien  Oliver,  corrupt  for  meed,*  *reward,  bribe 

Broughte  this  worthy  king  in  such  a  brike.*  *breach,  ruin 


O  worthy  PETRO,  King  of  CYPRE  <30>  also. 

That  Alexandre  won  by  high  mast'ry. 

Full  many  a  heathnen  wroughtest  thou  full  woe. 

Of  which  thine  owen  lieges  had  envy; 

And,  for  no  thing  but  for  thy  chivalry. 

They  in  thy  bed  have  slain  thee  by  the  morrow; 

Thus  can  Fortune  her  wheel  govern  and  gie,* 

And  out  of  joy  bringe  men  into  sorrow. 


*guide 


Of  Milan  greate  BARNABO  VISCOUNT,<30> 

God  of  delight,  and  scourge  of  Lombardy, 

Why  should  I  not  thine  clomben*  wert  so  high?  *climbed 

Thy  brother's  son,  that  was  thy  double  ally. 

For  he  thy  nephew  was  and  son-in-law. 

Within  his  prison  made  thee  to  die. 

But  why,  nor  how,  Vot  I*  that  thou  were  slaw*     *I  know  not*  *slain* 


Of  th'  Earl  HUGOLIN  OF  PISE  the  languour* 
There  may  no  tongue  telle  for  pity 
But  little  out  of  Pisa  stands  a  tow'r. 
In  whiche  tow'r  in  prison  put  was  he, 
Aud  with  him  be  his  little  children  three; 
The  eldest  scarcely  five  years  was  of  age; 
Alas!  Fortune,  it  was  great  cruelty 


agony 


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Such  birdes  for  to  put  in  such  a  cage. 


493 


Damned  was  he  to  die  in  that  prison; 
For  Roger,  which  that  bishop  was  of  Pise, 
Had  on  him  made  a  false  suggestion. 
Through  which  the  people  gan  upon  him  rise. 
And  put  him  in  prison,  in  such  a  wise 
As  ye  have  heard;  and  meat  and  drink  he  had 
So  small,  that  well  unneth*  it  might  suffice. 
And  therewithal  it  was  full  poor  and  bad. 


*scarcely 


And  on  a  day  befell,  that  in  that  hour 
When  that  his  meate  wont  was  to  be  brought. 
The  jailor  shut  the  doores  of  the  tow'r; 
He  heard  it  right  well,  but  he  spake  nought. 
And  in  his  heart  anon  there  fell  a  thought. 
That  they  for  hunger  woulde  *do  him  dien;* 
"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "alas  that  I  was  wrought!"* 
Therewith  the  teares  fell  from  his  eyen. 


*cause  him  to  die* 
*made,  born 


His  youngest  son,  that  three  years  was  of  age. 
Unto  him  said,  "Father,  why  do  ye  weep? 
When  will  the  jailor  bringen  our  pottage? 
Is  there  no  morsel  bread  that  ye  do  keep? 
I  am  so  hungry,  that  I  may  not  sleep. 
Now  woulde  God  that  I  might  sleepen  ever! 
Then  should  not  hunger  in  my  wombe*  creep; 
There  is  no  thing,  save  bread,  that  one  were  lever.' 


*stomach 
*dearer 


Thus  day  by  day  this  child  begun  to  cry. 
Till  in  his  father's  barme*  adown  he  lay. 
And  saide,  "Farewell,  father,  I  must  die;" 
And  kiss'd  his  father,  and  died  the  same  day. 
And  when  the  woeful  father  did  it  sey* 


*lap 


494 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  woe  his  armes  two  he  gan  to  bite, 
And  said,  "Alas!  Fortune,  and  well-away! 
To  thy  false  wheel  my  woe  all  may  I  wite.' 


*blame 


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495 


His  children  ween'd  that  it  for  hunger  was 
That  he  his  armes  gnaw'd,  and  not  for  woe. 
And  saide,  "Father,  do  not  so,  alas! 
But  rather  eat  the  flesh  upon  us  two. 
Our  flesh  thou  gave  us,  our  flesh  take  us  fro', 
And  eat  enough;"  right  thus  they  to  him  said. 
And  after  that,  within  a  day  or  two. 
They  laid  them  in  his  lap  adown,  and  died. 

Himself,  despaired,  eke  for  hunger  starf  * 

Thus  ended  is  this  Earl  of  Pise; 

From  high  estate  Fortune  away  him  car£* 

Of  this  tragedy  it  ought  enough  suffice 

Whoso  will  hear  it  *in  a  longer  wise,* 

Reade  the  greate  poet  of  Itale, 

That  Dante  hight,  for  he  can  it  devise  <32> 

From  point  to  point,  not  one  word  will  he  fail. 


*died 


*cut  off 


at  greater  length* 


m9u:im)eame. 


The  Prologue. 

"Ho!"  quoth  the  Knight,  "good  sir,  no  more  of  this; 

That  ye  have  said  is  right  enough,  y-wis,*  *of  a  surety 

And  muche  more;  for  little  heaviness 

Is  right  enough  to  muche  folk,  I  guess. 

I  say  for  me,  it  is  a  great  disease,*     *source  of  distress,  annoyance 

Where  as  men  have  been  in  great  wealth  and  ease. 

To  hearen  of  their  sudden  fall,  alas! 

And  the  contrary  is  joy  and  great  solas,*  *delight,  comfort 

As  when  a  man  hath  been  in  poor  estate. 

And  climbeth  up,  and  waxeth  fortunate. 

And  there  abideth  in  prosperity; 

Such  thing  is  gladsome,  as  it  thinketh  me. 

And  of  such  thing  were  goodly  for  to  tell." 


"Yea,"  quoth  our  Hoste,  "by  Saint  Paule's  bell. 

Ye  say  right  sooth;  this  monk  hath  clapped*  loud; 

He  spake  how  Fortune  cover 'd  with  a  cloud 

I  wot  not  what,  and  als'  of  a  tragedy 

Right  now  ye  heard:  and  pardie  no  remedy 

It  is  for  to  bewaile,  nor  complain 

That  that  is  done,  and  also  it  is  pain. 

As  ye  have  said,  to  hear  of  heaviness. 

Sir  Monk,  no  more  of  this,  so  God  you  bless; 


*talked 


496 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Your  tale  annoyeth  all  this  company; 

Such  talking  is  not  worth  a  butterfly, 

For  therein  is  there  no  sport  nor  game; 

Therefore,  Sir  Monke,  Dan  Piers  by  your  name, 

I  pray  you  heart'ly,  tell  us  somewhat  else. 

For  sickerly,  n'ere*  clinking  of  your  bells,         *were  it  not  for  the 

That  on  your  bridle  hang  on  every  side. 

By  heaven's  king,  that  for  us  alle  died, 

I  should  ere  this  have  fallen  down  for  sleep. 

Although  the  slough  had  been  never  so  deep; 

Then  had  your  tale  been  all  told  in  vain. 

For  certainly,  as  these  clerkes  sayn. 

Where  as  a  man  may  have  no  audience. 

Nought  helpeth  it  to  telle  his  sentence. 

And  well  I  wot  the  substance  is  in  me. 

If  anything  shall  well  reported  be. 

Sir,  say  somewhat  of  hunting,  <  1  >  I  you  pray." 

"Nay,"  quoth  the  Monk,  "I  have  *no  lust  to  play;*        *no  fondness  for 

Now  let  another  tell,  as  I  have  told."  jesting* 

Then  spake  our  Host  with  rude  speech  and  bold. 

And  said  unto  the  Nunne's  Priest  anon, 

"Come  near,  thou  Priest,  come  hither,  thou  Sir  John,  <2> 

Tell  us  such  thing  as  may  our  heartes  glade.*  *gladden 

Be  blithe,  although  thou  ride  upon  a  jade. 

What  though  thine  horse  be  bothe  foul  and  lean? 

If  he  will  serve  thee,  reck  thou  not  a  bean; 

Look  that  thine  heart  be  merry  evermo'." 


"Yes,  Host,"  quoth  he,  "so  may  I  ride  or  go. 
But*  I  be  merry,  y-wis  I  will  be  blamed." 
And  right  anon  his  tale  he  hath  attamed* 
And  thus  he  said  unto  us  every  one. 
This  sweete  priest,  this  goodly  man.  Sir  John. 


*unless 
*commenced  <3> 


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497 


The  Tale. 


her  goods  and  her  income* 
*thrifty  management 
*maintained 


*chamber 


A  poor  widow,  *somedeal  y-stept*  in  age,  *somewhat  advanced* 

Was  whilom  dwelling  in  a  poor  cottage. 

Beside  a  grove,  standing  in  a  dale. 

This  widow,  of  which  I  telle  you  my  tale. 

Since  thilke  day  that  she  was  last  a  wife. 

In  patience  led  a  full  simple  life. 

For  little  was  *her  chattel  and  her  rent.* 

By  husbandry*  of  such  as  God  her  sent. 

She  found*  herself,  and  eke  her  daughters  two. 

Three  large  sowes  had  she,  and  no  mo'; 

Three  kine,  and  eke  a  sheep  that  highte  Mall. 

Full  sooty  was  her  bow'r,*  and  eke  her  hall. 

In  which  she  ate  full  many  a  slender  meal. 

Of  poignant  sauce  knew  she  never  a  deal.* 

No  dainty  morsel  passed  through  her  throat; 

Her  diet  was  *accordant  to  her  cote.*      *in  keeping  with  her  cottage^ 

Repletion  her  made  never  sick; 

Attemper*  diet  was  all  her  physic. 

And  exercise,  and  *hearte's  suffisance.* 

The  goute  *let  her  nothing  for  to  dance,' 

Nor  apoplexy  shente*  not  her  head. 

No  wine  drank  she,  neither  white  nor  red: 

Her  board  was  served  most  with  white  and  black. 

Milk  and  brown  bread,  in  which  she  found  no  lack, 

Seind*  bacon,  and  sometimes  an  egg  or  tway;  *singed 

For  she  was  as  it  were  *a  manner  dey*         *kind  of  day  labourer*  <2 

A  yard  she  had,  enclosed  all  about 

With  stickes,  and  a  drye  ditch  without. 

In  which  she  had  a  cock,  hight  Chanticleer; 

In  all  the  land  of  crowing  *n'as  his  peer.*  *was  not  his  equal* 

His  voice  was  merrier  than  the  merry  orgon,*  *organ  <3 > 

On  masse  days  that  in  the  churches  gon. 


*whit 


*moderate 
*contentment  of  heart* 
*did  not  prevent  her 
from  dancing*    *hurt 


498 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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499 


Well  sickerer*  was  his  crowing  in  his  lodge,  *more  punctual* 

Than  is  a  clock,  or  an  abbay  horloge.*  *clock  <4> 

By  nature  he  knew  each  ascension 

Of  th'  equinoctial  in  thilke  town; 

For  when  degrees  fiftene  were  ascended. 

Then  crew  he,  that  it  might  not  be  amended. 

His  comb  was  redder  than  the  fme  coral, 

Embattell'd  <5>  as  it  were  a  castle  wall. 

His  bill  was  black,  and  as  the  jet  it  shone; 

Like  azure  were  his  legges  and  his  tone;*  *toes 

His  nailes  whiter  than  the  lily  flow'r. 

And  like  the  burnish'd  gold  was  his  colour. 

This  gentle  cock  had  in  his  governance 

Sev'n  hennes,  for  to  do  all  his  pleasance. 

Which  were  his  sisters  and  his  paramours. 

And  wondrous  like  to  him  as  of  colours. 

Of  which  the  fairest-hued  in  the  throat 

Was  called  Damoselle  Partelote, 

Courteous  she  was,  discreet,  and  debonair. 

And  companiable,*  and  bare  herself  so  fair,  *sociable 

Since  the  day  that  she  sev'n  night  was  old. 

That  truely  she  had  the  heart  in  hold 

Of  Chanticleer,  locked  in  every  lith;*  *limb 

He  lov'd  her  so,  that  well  was  him  therewith. 

But  such  a  joy  it  was  to  hear  them  sing. 

When  that  the  brighte  sunne  gan  to  spring. 

In  sweet  accord,  *"My  lefe  is  fare  in  land."*  <6>  *my  love  is 

For,  at  that  time,  as  I  have  understand,  gone  abroad* 

Beastes  and  birdes  coulde  speak  and  sing. 

And  so  befell,  that  in  a  dawening. 
As  Chanticleer  among  his  wives  all 
Sat  on  his  perche,  that  was  in  the  hall. 
And  next  him  sat  this  faire  Partelote, 


This  Chanticleer  gan  groanen  in  his  throat. 

As  man  that  in  his  dream  is  dretched*  sore,  *oppressed 

And  when  that  Partelote  thus  heard  him  roar. 

She  was  aghast,*  and  saide,  "Hearte  dear,  *afraid 

What  aileth  you  to  groan  in  this  mannere? 

Ye  be  a  very  sleeper,  fy  for  shame!" 

And  he  answer 'd  and  saide  thus;  "Madame, 

I  pray  you  that  ye  take  it  not  agrief;*  *amiss,  in  umbrage 

By  God,  *me  mette*  I  was  in  such  mischief,**        *I  dreamed*  **trouble 

Right  now,  that  yet  mine  heart  is  sore  affright'. 

Now  God,"  quoth  he,  "my  sweven*  read  aright  *dream,  vision. 

And  keep  my  body  out  of  foul  prisoun. 

*Me  mette,*  how  that  I  roamed  up  and  down  *I  dreamed* 

Within  our  yard,  where  as  I  saw  a  beast 

Was  like  an  hound,  and  would  have  *made  arrest*  *siezed* 

Upon  my  body,  and  would  have  had  me  dead. 

His  colour  was  betwixt  yellow  and  red; 

And  tipped  was  his  tail,  and  both  his  ears. 

With  black,  unlike  the  remnant  of  his  hairs. 

His  snout  was  small,  with  glowing  eyen  tway; 

Yet  of  his  look  almost  for  fear  I  dey;*  *died 

This  caused  me  my  groaning,  doubteless." 


"Away,"  <7>  quoth  she,  "fy  on  you,  hearteless!* 
Alas!"  quoth  she,  "for,  by  that  God  above! 
Now  have  ye  lost  my  heart  and  all  my  love; 
I  cannot  love  a  coward,  by  my  faith. 
For  certes,  what  so  any  woman  saith. 
We  all  desiren,  if  it  mighte  be. 
To  have  husbandes  hardy,  wise,  and  free. 
And  secret,*  and  no  niggard  nor  no  fool. 
Nor  him  that  is  aghast*  of  every  tool,** 
Nor  no  avantour,*  by  that  God  above! 
How  durste  ye  for  shame  say  to  your  love 


*coward 


*discreet 
*afraid  **rag,  trifle 
*braggart 


500 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  anything  might  make  you  afear'd? 

Have  ye  no  manne's  heart,  and  have  a  beard? 

Alas!  and  can  ye  be  aghast  of  swevenes?*  *dreams 

Nothing  but  vanity,  God  wot,  in  sweven  is, 

Swevens  *engender  of  repletions,*  *are  caused  by  over-eating* 

And  oft  of  fume,*  and  of  complexions,  *drunkenness 

When  humours  be  too  abundant  in  a  wight. 

Certes  this  dream,  which  ye  have  mette  tonight, 

Cometh  of  the  great  supefluity 

Of  youre  rede  cholera,*  pardie,  *bile 

Which  causeth  folk  to  dreaden  in  their  dreams 

Of  arrows,  and  of  fire  with  redde  beams. 

Of  redde  beastes,  that  they  will  them  bite. 

Of  conteke,*  and  of  whelpes  great  and  lite;**        *contention  **little 

Right  as  the  humour  of  melancholy 

Causeth  full  many  a  man  in  sleep  to  cry. 

For  fear  of  bulles,  or  of  beares  blake. 

Or  elles  that  black  devils  will  them  take. 

Of  other  humours  could  I  tell  also. 

That  worke  many  a  man  in  sleep  much  woe; 

That  I  will  pass  as  lightly  as  I  can. 

Lo,  Cato,  which  that  was  so  wise  a  man, 

Saidhe  not  thus,  *'Ne  do  no  force  oP  dreams,'<8>  *attach        no 

weight  to* 

Now,  Sir,"  quoth  she,  "when  we  fly  from  these  beams. 

For  Godde's  love,  as  take  some  laxatife; 

On  peril  of  my  soul,  and  of  my  life, 

I  counsel  you  the  best,  I  will  not  lie. 

That  both  of  choler,  and  melancholy. 

Ye  purge  you;  and,  for  ye  shall  not  tarry. 

Though  in  this  town  is  no  apothecary, 

I  shall  myself  two  herbes  teache  you. 

That  shall  be  for  your  health,  and  for  your  prow;*  *profit 

And  in  our  yard  the  herbes  shall  I  fmd. 


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The  which  have  of  their  property  by  kind* 

To  purge  you  beneath,  and  eke  above. 

Sire,  forget  not  this  for  Godde's  love; 

Ye  be  full  choleric  of  complexion; 

Ware  that  the  sun,  in  his  ascension. 

You  fmde  not  replete  of  humours  hot; 

And  if  it  do,  I  dare  well  lay  a  groat. 

That  ye  shall  have  a  fever  tertiane. 

Or  else  an  ague,  that  may  be  your  bane, 

A  day  or  two  ye  shall  have  digestives 

Of  wormes,  ere  ye  take  your  laxatives. 

Of  laurel,  centaury,  <9>  and  fumeterere,  <10> 

Or  else  of  elder-berry,  that  groweth  there. 

Of  catapuce,  <11>  or  of  the  gaitre-berries,  <12> 

Or  herb  ivy  growing  in  our  yard,  that  merry  is: 

Pick  them  right  as  they  grow,  and  eat  them  in. 

Be  merry,  husband,  for  your  father's  kin; 

Dreade  no  dream;  I  can  say  you  no  more." 


501 


nature 


"Madame,"  quoth  he,  "grand  mercy  of  your  lore. 

But  natheless,  as  touching  *Dan  Catoun,*  *Cato 

That  hath  of  wisdom  such  a  great  renown. 

Though  that  he  bade  no  dreames  for  to  dread. 

By  God,  men  may  in  olde  bookes  read 

Of  many  a  man  more  of  authority 

Than  ever  Cato  was,  so  may  I  the,*  *thrive 

That  all  the  reverse  say  of  his  sentence,*  *opinion 

And  have  well  founden  by  experience 

That  dreames  be  significations 

As  well  of  joy,  as  tribulations 

That  folk  enduren  in  this  life  present. 

There  needeth  make  of  this  no  argument; 

The  very  preve*  sheweth  it  indeed.  *trial,  experience 

One  of  the  greatest  authors  that  men  read  <13> 


502 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Saith  thus,  that  whilom  two  fellowes  went 

On  pilgrimage  in  a  full  good  intent; 

And  happen'd  so,  they  came  into  a  town 

Where  there  was  such  a  congregatioun 

Of  people,  and  eke  so  *strait  of  herbergage,'^ 

That  they  found  not  as  much  as  one  cottage 

In  which  they  bothe  might  y-lodged  be: 

Wherefore  they  musten  of  necessity. 

As  for  that  night,  departe  company; 

And  each  of  them  went  to  his  hostelry,* 

And  took  his  lodging  as  it  woulde  fall. 

The  one  of  them  was  lodged  in  a  stall. 

Far  in  a  yard,  with  oxen  of  the  plough; 

That  other  man  was  lodged  well  enow. 

As  was  his  aventure,  or  his  fortune. 

That  us  governeth  all,  as  in  commune. 

And  so  befell,  that,  long  ere  it  were  day. 

This  man  mette*  in  his  bed,  there:  as  he  lay. 

How  that  his  fellow  gan  upon  him  call. 

And  said,  Alas!  for  in  an  ox's  stall 

This  night  shall  I  be  murder 'd,  where  I  lie 

Now  help  me,  deare  brother,  or  I  die; 

In  alle  haste  come  to  me,'  he  said. 

This  man  out  of  his  sleep  for  fear  abraid;* 

But  when  that  he  was  wak'd  out  of  his  sleep. 

He  turned  him,  and  *took  of  this  no  keep;* 

He  thought  his  dream  was  but  a  vanity. 

Thus  twies*  in  his  sleeping  dreamed  he. 

And  at  the  thirde  time  yet  his  fellaw  again 

Came,  as  he  thought,  and  said,  'I  am  now  slaw;' 

Behold  my  bloody  woundes,  deep  and  wide. 

Arise  up  early,  in  the  morning,  tide. 

And  at  the  west  gate  of  the  town,'  quoth  he, 

A  carte  full  of  dung  there  shalt:  thou  see. 


*without  lodging* 


*dreamed 


*started 


paid  this  no  attention* 


twice 


*slain 


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In  which  my  body  is  hid  privily. 

Do  thilke  cart  arroste*  boldely. 

My  gold  caused  my  murder,  sooth  to  sayn.' 

And  told  him  every  point  how  he  was  slain. 

With  a  full  piteous  face,  and  pale  of  hue. 


503 


*stop 


"And,  truste  well,  his  dream  he  found  full  true; 
For  on  the  morrow,  as  soon  as  it  was  day. 
To  his  fellowes  inn  he  took  his  way; 
And  when  that  he  came  to  this  ox's  stall. 
After  his  fellow  he  began  to  call. 
The  hostelere  answered  him  anon. 
And  saide,  'Sir,  your  fellow  is  y-gone. 
As  soon  as  day  he  went  out  of  the  town.' 
This  man  gan  fallen  in  suspicioun, 
Rememb'ring  on  his  dreames  that  he  mette,* 
And  forth  he  went,  no  longer  would  he  let,* 
Unto  the  west  gate  of  the  town,  and  fand* 
A  dung  cart,  as  it  went  for  to  dung  land. 
That  was  arrayed  in  the  same  wise 
As  ye  have  heard  the  deade  man  devise;* 
And  with  an  hardy  heart  he  gan  to  cry, 
'Vengeance  and  justice  of  this  felony: 
My  fellow  murder'd  in  this  same  night 
And  in  this  cart  he  lies,  gaping  upright. 
I  cry  out  on  the  ministers,'  quoth  he. 
'That  shoulde  keep  and  rule  this  city; 
Harow!  alas!  here  lies  my  fellow  slain.' 
What  should  I  more  unto  this  tale  sayn? 
The  people  out  start,  and  cast  the  cart  to  ground 
And  in  the  middle  of  the  dung  they  found 
The  deade  man,  that  murder'd  was  all  new. 
O  blissful  God!  that  art  so  good  and  true, 
Lo,  how  that  thou  bewray 'st  murder  alway. 


*dreamed 

*delay 

*found 


*describe 


504 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


*loathsome 


*concealed  <14> 


Murder  will  out,  that  see  we  day  by  day 

Murder  is  so  wlatsom*  and  abominable 

To  God,  that  is  so  just  and  reasonable. 

That  he  will  not  suffer  it  heled*  be; 

Though  it  abide  a  year,  or  two,  or  three. 

Murder  will  out,  this  is  my  conclusioun. 

And  right  anon,  the  ministers  of  the  town 

Have  hent*  the  carter,  and  so  sore  him  pined,**       *seized  **tortured 

And  eke  the  hostelere  so  sore  engined,*  *racked 

That  they  beknew*  their  wickedness  anon,  *confessed 

And  were  hanged  by  the  necke  bone. 


"Here  may  ye  see  that  dreames  be  to  dread. 

And  certes  in  the  same  book  I  read, 

Right  in  the  nexte  chapter  after  this 

(I  gabbe*  not,  so  have  I  joy  and  bliss),  *talk  idly 

Two  men  that  would,  have  passed  over  sea. 

For  certain  cause,  into  a  far  country. 

If  that  the  wind  not  hadde  been  contrary. 

That  made  them  in  a  city  for  to  tarry. 

That  stood  full  merry  upon  an  haven  side; 

But  on  a  day,  against  the  even-tide. 

The  wind  gan  change,  and  blew  right  *as  them  lest.*     *as  they  wished* 

Jolly  and  glad  they  wente  to  their  rest. 

And  caste*  them  full  early  for  to  sail.  *resolved 

But  to  the  one  man  fell  a  great  marvail 

That  one  of  them,  in  sleeping  as  he  lay. 

He  mette*  a  wondrous  dream,  against  the  day:  *dreamed 

He  thought  a  man  stood  by  his  bedde's  side. 

And  him  commanded  that  he  should  abide; 

And  said  him  thus;  'If  thou  to-morrow  wend. 

Thou  shalt  be  drown'd;  my  tale  is  at  an  end.' 

He  woke,  and  told  his  follow  what  he  mette. 

And  prayed  him  his  voyage  for  to  let;*  *delay 


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As  for  that  day,  he  pray'd  him  to  abide. 

His  fellow,  that  layby  his  bedde's  side, 

Gan  for  to  laugh,  and  scorned  him  full  fast. 

'No  dream,'  quoth  he,'may  so  my  heart  aghast,*  *frighten 

That  I  will  lette*  for  to  do  my  things.*  *delay 

I  sette  not  a  straw  by  thy  dreamings. 

For  swevens*  be  but  vanities  and  japes.**        *dreams  **jokes,deceits 

Men  dream  all  day  of  owles  and  of  apes. 

And  eke  of  many  a  maze*  therewithal;  *wild  imagining 

Men  dream  of  thing  that  never  was,  nor  shall. 

But  since  I  see,  that  thou  wilt  here  abide. 

And  thus  forslothe*  wilfully  thy  tide,**  *idle  away  **time 

God  wot,  *it  rueth  me;*  and  have  good  day'  *I  am  sorry  for  it* 

And  thus  he  took  his  leave,  and  went  his  way. 

But,  ere  that  he  had  half  his  course  sail'd, 

I  know  not  why,  nor  what  mischance  it  ail'd. 

But  casually*  the  ship's  bottom  rent,  *by  accident 

And  ship  and  man  under  the  water  went. 

In  sight  of  other  shippes  there  beside 

That  with  him  sailed  at  the  same  tide. 


505 


"And  therefore,  faire  Partelote  so  dear. 

By  such  examples  olde  may'st  thou  lear,*  *learn 

That  no  man  shoulde  be  too  reckeless 

Of  dreames,  for  I  say  thee  doubteless. 

That  many  a  dream  full  sore  is  for  to  dread. 

Lo,  in  the  life  of  Saint  Kenelm  <15>  I  read. 

That  was  Kenulphus'  son,  the  noble  king 

Of  Mercenrike,  <16>  how  Kenelm  mette  a  thing. 

A  little  ere  he  was  murder'd  on  a  day. 

His  murder  in  his  vision  he  say*  *saw 

His  norice*  him  expounded  every  deal**  *nurse  **part 

His  sweven,  and  bade  him  to  keep*  him  well  *guard 

For  treason;  but  he  was  but  seven  years  old. 


506 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


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507 


And  therefore  *little  tale  hath  he  told*  *he  attached  little 

Of  any  dream,  so  holy  was  his  heart.  significance  to* 

By  God,  I  hadde  lever  than  my  shirt 

That  ye  had  read  his  legend,  as  have  I. 

Dame  Partelote,  I  say  you  truely, 

Macrobius,  that  wrote  the  vision 

In  Afric'  of  the  worthy  Scipion,  <  17> 

Affirmeth  dreames,  and  saith  that  they  be 

'Warnings  of  thinges  that  men  after  see. 

And  furthermore,  I  pray  you  looke  well 

In  the  Old  Testament,  of  Daniel, 

If  he  held  dreames  any  vanity. 

Read  eke  of  Joseph,  and  there  shall  ye  see 

Whether  dreams  be  sometimes  (I  say  not  all) 

Warnings  of  thinges  that  shall  after  fall. 

Look  of  Egypt  the  king,  Dan  Pharaoh, 

His  baker  and  his  buteler  also. 

Whether  they  felte  none  effect*  in  dreams.  *significance 

Whoso  will  seek  the  acts  of  sundry  remes*  *realms 

May  read  of  dreames  many  a  wondrous  thing. 

Lo  Croesus,  which  that  was  of  Lydia  king, 

Mette  he  not  that  he  sat  upon  a  tree. 

Which  signified  he  shoulde  hanged  be?  <  18> 

Lo  here,  Andromache,  Hectore's  wife,  <  19> 

That  day  that  Hector  shoulde  lose  his  life. 

She  dreamed  on  the  same  night  beforn. 

How  that  the  life  of  Hector  should  be  lorn,*  *lost 

If  thilke  day  he  went  into  battaile; 

She  warned  him,  but  it  might  not  avail; 

He  wente  forth  to  fighte  natheless. 

And  was  y-slain  anon  of  Achilles. 

But  thilke  tale  is  all  too  long  to  tell; 

And  eke  it  is  nigh  day,  I  may  not  dwell. 

Shortly  I  say,  as  for  conclusion. 


That  I  shall  have  of  this  avision 
Adversity;  and  I  say  furthermore. 
That  I  ne  *tell  of  laxatives  no  store,* 
For  they  be  venomous,  I  wot  it  well; 
I  them  defy*  I  love  them  never  a  del.* 


*hold  laxatives 
of  no  value* 
*distrust  **whit 


"But  let  us  speak  of  mirth,  and  stint*  all  this;  *cease 

Madame  Partelote,  so  have  I  bliss. 

Of  one  thing  God  hath  sent  me  large*  grace;  liberal 

For  when  I  see  the  beauty  of  your  face. 

Ye  be  so  scarlet-hued  about  your  eyen, 

I  maketh  all  my  dreade  for  to  dien. 

For,  all  so  sicker*  as  In  principio,<20>  *certain 

Mulier  est  hominis  confusio.<21> 

Madam,  the  sentence*  of  of  this  Latin  is,  *meaning 

Woman  is  manne's  joy  and  manne's  bliss. 

For  when  I  feel  at  night  your  softe  side,  — 

Albeit  that  I  may  not  on  you  ride. 

For  that  our  perch  is  made  so  narrow,  Alas! 

I  am  so  full  of  joy  and  of  solas,*  *delight 

That  I  defy  both  sweven  and  eke  dream." 

And  with  that  word  he  flew  down  from  the  beam. 

For  it  was  day,  and  eke  his  hennes  all; 

And  with  a  chuck  he  gan  them  for  to  call. 

For  he  had  found  a  corn,  lay  in  the  yard. 

Royal  he  was,  he  was  no  more  afear'd; 

He  feather'd  Partelote  twenty  time. 

And  as  oft  trode  her,  ere  that  it  was  prime. 

He  looked  as  it  were  a  grim  lion. 

And  on  his  toes  he  roamed  up  and  down; 

He  deigned  not  to  set  his  feet  to  ground; 

He  chucked,  when  he  had  a  corn  y- found. 

And  to  him  ranne  then  his  wives  all. 

Thus  royal,  as  a  prince  is  in  his  hall. 


508 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Leave  I  this  Chanticleer  in  his  pasture; 
And  after  will  I  tell  his  aventure. 

When  that  the  month  in  which  the  world  began, 

That  highte  March,  when  God  first  maked  man. 

Was  complete,  and  y-passed  were  also. 

Since  March  ended,  thirty  days  and  two. 

Befell  that  Chanticleer  in  all  his  pride. 

His  seven  wives  walking  him  beside. 

Cast  up  his  eyen  to  the  brighte  sun. 

That  in  the  sign  of  Taurus  had  y-run 

Twenty  degrees  and  one,  and  somewhat  more; 

He  knew  by  kind,*  and  by  none  other  lore,**  *nature  **learning 

That  it  was  prime,  and  crew  with  blissful  Steven.*  *voice 

"The  sun,"  he  said,  "is  clomben  up  in  heaven 

Twenty  degrees  and  one,  and  more  y-wis.*  *assuredly 

Madame  Partelote,  my  worlde's  bliss. 

Hearken  these  blissful  birdes  how  they  sing. 

And  see  the  freshe  flowers  how  they  spring; 

Full  is  mine  heart  of  revel  and  solace." 

But  suddenly  him  fell  a  sorrowful  case;*  *casualty 

For  ever  the  latter  end  of  joy  is  woe: 

God  wot  that  worldly  joy  is  soon  y-go: 

And,  if  a  rhetor*  coulde  fair  indite,  *orator 

He  in  a  chronicle  might  it  safely  write. 

As  for  *a  sov'reign  notability*  *a  thing  supremely  notable* 

Now  every  wise  man,  let  him  hearken  me; 

This  story  is  all  as  true,  I  undertake. 

As  is  the  book  of  Launcelot  du  Lake, 

That  women  hold  in  full  great  reverence. 

Now  will  I  turn  again  to  my  sentence. 


A  col-fox,  <22>  full  of  sly  iniquity. 

That  in  the  grove  had  wonned*  yeares  three. 


*dwelt 


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509 


*crouching,  lurking 


By  high  imagination  forecast. 

The  same  night  thorough  the  hedges  brast*  *burst 

Into  the  yard,  where  Chanticleer  the  fair 

Was  wont,  and  eke  his  wives,  to  repair; 

And  in  a  bed  of  wortes*  still  he  lay,  *cabbages 

Till  it  was  passed  undern  <23>  of  the  day. 

Waiting  his  time  on  Chanticleer  to  fall: 

As  gladly  do  these  homicides  all. 

That  in  awaite  lie  to  murder  men. 

O  false  murd'rer!  Rouking*  in  thy  den! 

O  newlscariot,  new  Ganilion!  <24> 

O  false  dissimuler,  O  Greek  Sinon,<25> 

That  broughtest  Troy  all  utterly  to  sorrow! 

O  Chanticleer!  accursed  be  the  morrow 

That  thou  into  thy  yard  flew  from  the  beams;* 

Thou  wert  full  well  y-warned  by  thy  dreams 

That  thilke  day  was  perilous  to  thee. 

But  what  that  God  forewot*  must  needes  be. 

After  th'  opinion  of  certain  clerkes. 

Witness  on  him  that  any  perfect  clerk  is. 

That  in  school  is  great  altercation 

In  this  matter,  and  great  disputation. 

And  hath  been  of  an  hundred  thousand  men. 

But  I  ne  cannot  *boult  it  to  the  bren,*      *examine  it  thoroughly  <26>* 

As  can  the  holy  doctor  Augustine, 

Or  Boece,  or  the  bishop  Bradwardine,<27> 

Whether  that  Godde's  worthy  foreweeting*  *foreknowledge 

*Straineth  me  needly*  for  to  do  a  thing  *forces  me* 

(Needly  call  I  simple  necessity). 

Or  elles  if  free  choice  be  granted  me 

To  do  that  same  thing,  or  do  it  not. 

Though  God  forewot*  it  ere  that  it  was  wrought;  *knew  in  advance 

Or  if  *his  weeting  straineth  never  a  deal,*      *his  knowing  constrains 

But  by  necessity  conditionel.  not  at  all* 


*rafters 


*foreknows 


510 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


I  will  not  have  to  do  of  such  mattere; 

My  tale  is  of  a  cock,  as  ye  may  hear, 

That  took  his  counsel  of  his  wife,  with  sorrow. 

To  walken  in  the  yard  upon  the  morrow 

That  he  had  mette  the  dream,  as  I  you  told. 

Womane's  counsels  be  full  often  cold;*  *mischievous,  unwise 

Womane's  counsel  brought  us  first  to  woe. 

And  made  Adam  from  Paradise  to  go. 

There  as  he  was  full  merry  and  well  at  case. 

But,  for  I  n'ot*  to  whom  I  might  displease  *know  not 

If  I  counsel  of  women  woulde  blame. 

Pass  over,  for  I  said  it  in  my  game.*  *jest 

Read  authors,  where  they  treat  of  such  mattere 

And  what  they  say  of  women  ye  may  hear. 

These  be  the  cocke's  wordes,  and  not  mine; 

I  can  no  harm  of  no  woman  divine.*  *conjecture,  imagine 

Fair  in  the  sand,  to  bathe*  her  merrily,  *bask 

Lies  Partelote,  and  all  her  sisters  by. 

Against  the  sun,  and  Chanticleer  so  free 

Sang  merrier  than  the  mermaid  in  the  sea; 

For  Physiologus  saith  sickerly,*  *certainly 

How  that  they  singe  well  and  merrily.  <28> 

And  so  befell  that,  as  he  cast  his  eye 

Among  the  wortes,*  on  a  butterfly,  *cabbages 

He  was  ware  of  this  fox  that  lay  full  low. 

Nothing  *ne  list  him  thenne*  for  to  crow,        *he  had  no  inclination* 

But  cried  anon  "Cock!  cock!"  and  up  he  start. 

As  man  that  was  affrayed  in  his  heart. 

For  naturally  a  beast  desireth  flee 

From  his  contrary,*  if  be  may  it  see,  *enemy 

Though  he  *ne'er  erst*  had  soon  it  with  his  eye  *never  before* 

This  Chanticleer,  when  he  gan  him  espy. 

He  would  have  fled,  but  that  the  fox  anon 

Said,  "Gentle  Sir,  alas!  why  will  ye  gon? 


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511 


*satisfaction 


enjoy,  possess,  or  use 


Be  ye  afraid  of  me  that  am  your  friend? 

Now,  certes,  I  were  worse  than  any  fiend. 

If  I  to  you  would  harm  or  villainy. 

I  am  not  come  your  counsel  to  espy. 

But  truely  the  cause  of  my  coming 

Was  only  for  to  hearken  how  ye  sing; 

For  truely  ye  have  as  merry  a  Steven,* 

As  any  angel  hath  that  is  in  heaven; 

Therewith  ye  have  of  music  more  feeling. 

Than  had  Boece,  or  any  that  can  sing. 

My  lord  your  father  (God  his  soule  bless) 

And  eke  your  mother  of  her  gentleness. 

Have  in  mnine  house  been,  to  my  great  ease:* 

And  certes.  Sir,  full  fain  would  I  you  please. 

But,  for  men  speak  of  singing,  I  will  say. 

So  may  I  brooke*  well  mine  eyen  tway. 

Save  you,  I  hearde  never  man  so  sing 

As  did  your  father  in  the  morrowning. 

Certes  it  was  of  heart  all  that  he  sung. 

And,  for  to  make  his  voice  the  more  strong. 

He  would  *so  pain  him,*  that  with  both  his  eyen  *make  such  an  exertion* 

He  muste  wink,  so  loud  he  woulde  cryen. 

And  standen  on  his  tiptoes  therewithal. 

And  stretche  forth  his  necke  long  and  small. 

And  eke  he  was  of  such  discretion. 

That  there  was  no  man,  in  no  region. 

That  him  in  song  or  wisdom  mighte  pass. 

I  have  well  read  in  Dan  Burnel  the  Ass,  <29> 

Among  his  verse,  how  that  there  was  a  cock 

That,  for*  a  prieste's  son  gave  him  a  knock 

Upon  his  leg,  while  he  was  young  and  nice,* 

He  made  him  for  to  lose  his  benefice. 

But  certain  there  is  no  comparison 

Betwixt  the  wisdom  and  discretion 


*because 
*foolish 


512 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Of  youre  father,  and  his  subtilty. 

Now  singe,  Sir,  for  sainte  charity. 

Let  see,  can  ye  your  father  counterfeit?" 


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(For  on  a  Friday,  soothly,  slain  was  he). 

Then  would  I  shew  you  how  that  I  could  plain*  *lament 

For  Chanticleere's  dread,  and  for  his  pain. 


513 


This  Chanticleer  his  wings  began  to  beat. 
As  man  that  could  not  his  treason  espy. 
So  was  he  ravish'd  with  his  flattery 
Alas!  ye  lordes,  many  a  false  flattour* 
Is  in  your  court,  and  many  a  losengeour,  * 
That  please  you  well  more,  by  my  faith. 
Than  he  that  soothfastness*  unto  you  saith. 
Read  in  Ecclesiast'  of  flattery; 
Beware,  ye  lordes,  of  their  treachery 
This  Chanticleer  stood  high  upon  his  toes. 
Stretching  his  neck,  and  held  his  eyen  close. 
And  gan  to  crowe  loude  for  the  nonce 
And  Dan  Russel  <32>  the  fox  start  up  at  once. 
And  *by  the  gorge  hente*  Chanticleer,  ^ 

And  on  his  back  toward  the  wood  him  bare. 
For  yet  was  there  no  man  that  him  pursu'd. 
O  destiny,  that  may'st  not  be  eschew'd!* 
Alas,  that  Chanticleer  flew  from  the  beams! 
Alas,  his  wife  raughte*  nought  of  dreams! 
And  on  a  Friday  fell  all  this  mischance. 
O  Venus,  that  art  goddess  of  pleasance. 
Since  that  thy  servant  was  this  Chanticleer 
And  in  thy  service  did  all  his  powere. 
More  for  delight,  than  the  world  to  multiply. 
Why  wilt  thou  suffer  him  on  thy  day  to  die? 
O  Gaufrid,  deare  master  sovereign,  <33> 
That,  when  thy  worthy  king  Richard  was  slain 
With  shot,  complainedest  his  death  so  sore. 
Why  n'had  I  now  thy  sentence  and  thy  lore. 
The  Friday  for  to  chiden,  as  did  ye? 


*flatterer  <30> 
*deceiver  <31> 

*truth 


seized  by  the  throat* 

*escaped 
*regarded 


Certes  such  cry  nor  lamentation 

Was  ne'er  of  ladies  made,  when  Ilion 

Was  won,  and  Pyrrhus  with  his  straighte  sword. 

When  he  had  hent*  king  Priam  by  the  beard,  *seized 

And  slain  him  (as  saith  us  Eneidos*),<34>  *The  Aeneid 

As  maden  all  the  hennes  in  the  close,*  *yard 

When  they  had  seen  of  Chanticleer  the  sight. 

But  sov'reignly*  Dame  Partelote  shright,**  *above  all  others 

Full  louder  than  did  Hasdrubale's  wife,  **shrieked 

When  that  her  husband  hadde  lost  his  life. 

And  that  the  Romans  had  y-burnt  Carthage; 

She  was  so  full  of  torment  and  of  rage. 

That  wilfully  into  the  fire  she  start. 

And  burnt  herselfe  with  a  steadfast  heart. 

O  woeful  hennes!  right  so  cried  ye. 

As,  when  that  Nero  burned  the  city 

Of  Rome,  cried  the  senatores'  wives. 

For  that  their  husbands  losten  all  their  lives; 

Withoute  guilt  this  Nero  hath  them  slain. 

Now  will  I  turn  unto  my  tale  again; 

The  sely*  widow,  and  her  daughters  two,  *simple,  honest 

Hearde  these  hennes  cry  and  make  woe. 

And  at  the  doors  out  started  they  anon. 

And  saw  the  fox  toward  the  wood  is  gone. 

And  bare  upon  his  back  the  cock  away: 

They  cried,  "Out!  harow!  and  well-away! 

Aha!  the  fox!"  and  after  him  they  ran. 

And  eke  with  staves  many  another  man 

Ran  Coll  our  dog,  and  Talbot,  and  Garland; 


514 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And  Malkin,  with  her  distaff  in  her  hand 

Ran  cow  and  calf,  and  eke  the  very  hogges 

So  fear'd  they  were  for  barking  of  the  dogges, 

And  shouting  of  the  men  and  women  eke. 

They  ranne  so,  them  thought  their  hearts  would  break. 

They  yelled  as  the  fiendes  do  in  hell; 

The  duckes  cried  as  men  would  them  quell;*  ^ 

The  geese  for  feare  flewen  o'er  the  trees. 

Out  of  the  hive  came  the  swarm  of  bees. 

So  hideous  was  the  noise,  ben'dicite! 

Certes  he,  Jacke  Straw, <  35  >  and  his  meinie,* 

Ne  made  never  shoutes  half  so  shrill 

When  that  they  woulden  any  Fleming  kill. 

As  thilke  day  was  made  upon  the  fox. 

Of  brass  they  broughte  beames*  and  of  box,  * 

Of  horn  and  bone,  in  which  they  blew  and  pooped,* 

And  therewithal  they  shrieked  and  they  hooped; 

It  seemed  as  the  heaven  shoulde  fall 


kill,  destroy 


*followers 


trumpets  <36> 
**tooted 


Now,  goode  men,  I  pray  you  hearken  all; 

Lo,  how  Fortune  turneth  suddenly 

The  hope  and  pride  eke  of  her  enemy. 

This  cock,  that  lay  upon  the  fox's  back. 

In  all  his  dread  unto  the  fox  he  spake. 

And  saide,  "Sir,  if  that  I  were  as  ye. 

Yet  would  I  say  (as  wisly*  God  help  me), 

'Turn  ye  again,  ye  proude  churles  all; 

A  very  pestilence  upon  you  fall. 

Now  am  I  come  unto  the  woode's  side, 

Maugre  your  head,  the  cock  shall  here  abide; 

I  will  him  eat,  in  faith,  and  that  anon.'" 

The  fox  answer'd,  "In  faith  it  shall  be  done:" 

And,  as  he  spake  the  word,  all  suddenly 

The  cock  brake  from  his  mouth  deliverly,* 


*surely 


*nimbly 


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And  high  upon  a  tree  he  flew  anon. 

And  when  the  fox  saw  that  the  cock  was  gone, 

"Alas!"  quoth  he,  "O  Chanticleer,  alas! 

I  have,"  quoth  he,  "y-done  to  you  trespass,*  *offence 

Inasmuch  as  I  maked  you  afear'd. 

When  I  you  hent,*  and  brought  out  of  your  yard;  *took 

But,  Sir,  I  did  it  in  no  wick'  intent; 

Come  down,  and  I  shall  tell  you  what  I  meant. 

I  shall  say  sooth  to  you,  God  help  me  so." 

"Nay  then,"  quoth  he,  "I  shrew*  us  both  the  two,  *curse 

And  first  I  shrew  myself,  both  blood  and  bones. 

If  thou  beguile  me  oftener  than  once. 

Thou  shalt  no  more  through  thy  flattery 

Do*  me  to  sing  and  winke  with  mine  eye;  *cause 

For  he  that  winketh  when  he  shoulde  see. 

All  wilfully,  God  let  him  never  the."*  *thrive 

"Nay,"  quoth  the  fox;  "but  God  give  him  mischance 

That  is  so  indiscreet  of  governance. 

That  jangleth*  when  that  he  should  hold  his  peace."  *chatters 


515 


Lo,  what  it  is  for  to  be  reckeless 
And  negligent,  and  trust  on  flattery. 
But  ye  that  holde  this  tale  a  folly. 
As  of  a  fox,  or  of  a  cock  or  hen. 
Take  the  morality  thereof,  good  men. 
For  Saint  Paul  saith,That  all  that  written  is, 
*To  our  doctrine  it  written  is  y-wis.*  <37> 
Take  the  fruit,  and  let  the  chaff  be  still. 


*is  surely  written  for 
our  instruction* 


Now  goode  God,  if  that  it  be  thy  will. 

As  saith  my  Lord,  <38>  so  make  us  all  good  men; 

And  bring  us  all  to  thy  high  bliss.  Amen. 


516 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  Epilogue. 


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517 


"Sir  Nunne's  Priest,"  our  hoste  said  anon, 
"Y-blessed  be  thy  breech,  and  every  stone; 
This  was  a  merry  tale  of  Chanticleer. 
But  by  my  truth,  if  thou  wert  seculere,* 
Thou  wouldest  be  a  treadefowl*  aright; 
For  if  thou  have  courage  as  thou  hast  might. 
Thee  were  need  of  hennes,  as  I  ween. 
Yea  more  than  seven  times  seventeen. 
See,  whate  brawnes*  hath  this  gentle  priest. 
So  great  a  neck,  and  such  a  large  breast 
He  looketh  as  a  sperhawk  with  his  eyen 
Him  needeth  not  his  colour  for  to  dyen 
With  Brazil,  nor  with  grain  of  Portugale. 
But,  Sir,  faire  fall  you  for  your  tale'." 
And,  after  that,  he  with  full  merry  cheer 
Said  to  another,  as  ye  shall  hear. 


*a  layman 
*cock 


*muscles,  sinews 


me  (^ee&?id ^yVw/v'^  t:ya/e. 


The  minister  and  norice*  unto  vices,  *nurse 

Which  that  men  call  in  English  idleness. 

The  porter  at  the  gate  is  of  delices;*  *delights 

T'eschew,  and  by  her  contrar'  her  oppress,  — 

That  is  to  say,  by  lawful  business,*  —  *occupation,  activity 

Well  oughte  we  to  *do  our  all  intent*  *^Ppty  ourselves* 

Lest  that  the  fiend  through  idleness  us  hent.*  *seize 


For  he,  that  with  his  thousand  cordes  sly 
Continually  us  waiteth  to  beclap,* 
When  he  may  man  in  idleness  espy. 
He  can  so  lightly  catch  him  in  his  trap. 
Till  that  a  man  be  hent*  right  by  the  lappe,** 
He  is  not  ware  the  fiend  hath  him  in  hand; 
Well  ought  we  work,  and  idleness  withstand. 


*entangle,  bind 


*hem 


And  though  men  dreaded  never  for  to  die. 
Yet  see  men  well  by  reason,  doubteless. 
That  idleness  is  root  of  sluggardy. 
Of  which  there  cometh  never  good  increase; 
And  see  that  sloth  them  holdeth  in  a  leas,* 
Only  to  sleep,  and  for  to  eat  and  drink. 
And  to  devouren  all  that  others  swink.* 


*leash  <2> 
*labour 


518 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


And,  for  to  put  us  from  such  idleness, 

That  cause  is  of  so  great  confusion, 

I  have  here  done  my  faithful  business. 

After  the  Legend,  in  translation 

Right  of  thy  glorious  life  and  passion,  — 

Thou  with  thy  garland  wrought  of  rose  and  lily. 

Thee  mean  I,  maid  and  martyr.  Saint  Cecilie. 

And  thou,  thou  art  the  flow'r  of  virgins  all. 

Of  whom  that  Bernard  list  so  well  to  write,  <3> 

To  thee  at  my  beginning  first  I  call; 

Thou  comfort  of  us  wretches,  do  me  indite 

Thy  maiden's  death,  that  won  through  her  merite 

Th'  eternal  life,  and  o'er  the  fiend  victory. 

As  man  may  after  readen  in  her  story 

Thou  maid  and  mother,  daughter  of  thy  Son, 

Thou  well  of  mercy,  sinful  soules'  cure. 

In  whom  that  God  of  bounte  chose  to  won;*  *dwell 

Thou  humble  and  high  o'er  every  creature. 

Thou  nobilest,  *so  far  forth  our  nature,*  *as  far  as  our  nature  admits* 

That  no  disdain  the  Maker  had  of  kind,*  *nature 

His  Son  in  blood  and  flesh  to  clothe  and  wind.*  *wrap 

Within  the  cloister  of  thy  blissful  sides 

Took  manne's  shape  th'  eternal  love  and  peace. 

That  of  *the  trine  compass*  Lord  and  guide  is  *the  trinity* 

Whom  earth,  and  sea,  and  heav'n,  *out  of  release,*  *unceasingly 

*Aye  hery;*  and  thou.  Virgin  wemmeless,*    *forever  praise*  *immaculate 

Bare  of  thy  body,  and  dweltest  maiden  pure. 

The  Creator  of  every  creature. 


Assembled  is  in  thee  magnificence  <4> 
With  mercy,  goodness,  and  with  such  pity. 


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That  thou,  that  art  the  sun  of  excellence. 
Not  only  helpest  them  that  pray  to  thee. 
But  oftentime,  of  thy  benignity. 
Full  freely,  ere  that  men  thine  help  beseech. 
Thou  go'st  before,  and  art  their  lives'  leech.* 


519 


*healer,  saviour. 


Now  help,  thou  meek  and  blissful  faire  maid. 
Me,  flemed*  wretch,  in  this  desert  of  gall; 
Think  on  the  woman  Cananee  that  said 
That  whelpes  eat  some  of  the  crumbes  all 
That  from  their  Lorde's  table  be  y-fall;<5> 
And  though  that  I,  unworthy  son  of  Eve,<6> 
Be  sinful,  yet  accepte  my  believe.* 


*banished,  outcast 


*faith 


And,  for  that  faith  is  dead  withoute  werkes. 

For  to  worke  give  me  wit  and  space. 

That  I  be  *quit  from  thennes  that  most  derk  is;*     *freed  from  the  most 

O  thou,  that  art  so  fair  and  full  of  grace,  dark  place  (Hell)* 

Be  thou  mine  advocate  in  that  high  place. 

Where  as  withouten  end  is  sung  Osanne, 

Thou  Christe's  mother,  daughter  dear  of  Anne. 

And  of  thy  light  my  soul  in  prison  light. 

That  troubled  is  by  the  contagion 

Of  my  body,  and  also  by  the  weight 

Of  earthly  lust  and  false  affection; 

O  hav'n  of  refuge,  O  salvation 

Of  them  that  be  in  sorrow  and  distress. 

Now  help,  for  to  my  work  I  will  me  dress. 


Yet  pray  I  you,  that  reade  what  I  write,  <6> 

Forgive  me  that  I  do  no  diligence 

This  ilke*  story  subtilly  t'  indite. 

For  both  have  I  the  wordes  and  sentence 


520 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Of  him  that  at  the  sainte's  reverence 
The  story  wrote,  and  follow  her  legend; 
And  pray  you  that  you  will  my  work  amend. 

First  will  I  you  the  name  of  Saint  Cecilie 

Expound,  as  men  may  in  her  story  see. 

It  is  to  say  in  English,  Heaven's  lily,<7> 

For  pure  chasteness  of  virginity; 

Or,  for  she  whiteness  had  of  honesty,*  *purity 

And  green  of  conscience,  and  of  good  fame 

The  sweete  savour,  Lilie  was  her  name. 

Or  Cecilie  is  to  say,  the  way  of  blind;  <7> 

For  she  example  was  by  good  teaching; 

Or  else  Cecilie,  as  I  written  fmd. 

Is  joined  by  a  manner  conjoining 

Of  heaven  and  Lia,  <7>  and  herein  figuring 

The  heaven  is  set  for  thought  of  holiness. 

And  Lia  for  her  lasting  business. 

Cecilie  may  eke  be  said  in  this  mannere. 

Wanting  of  blindness,  for  her  greate  light 

Of  sapience,  and  for  her  thewes*  clear.  *qualities 

Or  elles,  lo,  this  maiden's  name  bright 

Of  heaven  and  Leos  <7>  comes,  for  which  by  right 

Men  might  her  well  the  heaven  of  people  call. 

Example  of  good  and  wise  workes  all; 

For  Leos  people  in  English  is  to  say; 

And  right  as  men  may  in  the  heaven  see 

The  sun  and  moon,  and  starres  everyway. 

Right  so  men  ghostly,*  in  this  maiden  free,  *spiritually 

Sawen  of  faith  the  magnanimity. 

And  eke  the  clearness  whole  of  sapience. 


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And  sundry  workes  bright  of  excellence. 


521 


And  right  so  as  these  philosophers  write. 

That  heav'n  is  swift  and  round,  and  eke  burning. 

Right  so  was  faire  Cecilie  the  white 

Full  swift  and  busy  in  every  good  working. 

And  round  and  whole  in  good  persevering,  <8> 

And  burning  ever  in  charity  full  bright; 

Now  have  I  you  declared  *what  she  hight.*         *why  she  had  her  name* 

This  maiden  bright  Cecile,  as  her  life  saith. 
Was  come  of  Romans,  and  of  noble  kind, 
And  from  her  cradle  foster 'd  in  the  faith 
Of  Christ,  and  bare  his  Gospel  in  her  mind: 
She  never  ceased,  as  I  written  fmd. 
Of  her  prayere,  and  God  to  love  and  dread. 
Beseeching  him  to  keep  her  maidenhead. 


And  when  this  maiden  should  unto  a  man 

Y-wedded  be,  that  was  full  young  of  age. 

Which  that  y-called  was  Valerian, 

And  come  was  the  day  of  marriage. 

She,  full  devout  and  humble  in  her  corage,* 

Under  her  robe  of  gold,  that  sat  full  fair. 

Had  next  her  flesh  y-clad  her  in  an  hair.* 


And  while  the  organs  made  melody. 
To  God  alone  thus  in  her  heart  sang  she; 
"O  Lord,  my  soul  and  eke  my  body  gie* 
Unwemmed,*  lest  that  I  confounded  be." 
And,  for  his  love  that  died  upon  the  tree. 
Every  second  or  third  day  she  fast'. 
Aye  bidding*  in  her  orisons  full  fast. 


*heart 


^garment  of  hair-cloth 


*guide 
*unblemished 


praymg 


522 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


The  night  came,  and  to  bedde  must  she  gon 
With  her  husband,  as  it  is  the  mannere; 
And  privily  she  said  to  him  anon; 
"O  sweet  and  well-beloved  spouse  dear. 
There  is  a  counsel,*  an'**  ye  will  it  hear. 
Which  that  right  fain  I  would  unto  you  say. 
So  that  ye  swear  ye  will  it  not  bewray"* 

Valerian  gan  fast  unto  her  swear 

That  for  no  case  nor  thing  that  mighte  be. 

He  never  should  to  none  bewrayen  her; 

And  then  at  erst*  thus  to  him  saide  she; 

"I  have  an  angel  which  that  loveth  me. 

That  with  great  love,  whether  I  wake  or  sleep. 

Is  ready  aye  my  body  for  to  keep; 

"And  if  that  he  may  feelen,  *out  of  dread,* 
That  ye  me  touch  or  love  in  villainy. 
He  right  anon  will  slay  you  with  the  deed. 
And  in  your  youthe  thus  ye  shoulde  die. 
And  if  that  ye  in  cleane  love  me  gie,"* 
He  will  you  love  as  me,  for  your  cleanness. 
And  shew  to  you  his  joy  and  his  brightness." 

Valerian,  corrected  as  God  wo'ld. 

Answer 'd  again,  "If  I  shall  truste  thee. 

Let  me  that  angel  see,  and  him  behold; 

And  if  that  it  a  very  angel  be. 

Then  will  I  do  as  thou  hast  prayed  me; 

And  if  thou  love  another  man,  forsooth 

Right  with  this  sword  then  will  I  slay  you  both." 

Cecile  answer 'd  anon  right  in  this  wise; 
"If  that  you  list,  the  angel  shall  ye  see. 


*secret  **if 


*betray 


*for  the  first  time 


*without  doubt* 


*guide 


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So  that  ye  trow*  Of  Christ,  and  you  baptise;  *knov 

Go  forth  to  Via  Appia,"  quoth  she. 

That  from  this  towne  stands  but  miles  three. 

And  to  the  poore  folkes  that  there  dwell 

Say  them  right  thus,  as  that  I  shall  you  tell. 


523 


"Tell  them,  that  I,  Cecile,  you  to  them  sent 
To  shewe  you  the  good  Urban  the  old. 
For  secret  needes,*  and  for  good  intent; 
And  when  that  ye  Saint  Urban  have  behold. 
Tell  him  the  wordes  which  I  to  you  told 
And  when  that  he  hath  purged  you  from  sin. 
Then  shall  ye  see  that  angel  ere  ye  twin* 

Valerian  is  to  the  place  gone; 

And,  right  as  he  was  taught  by  her  learning 

He  found  this  holy  old  Urban  anon 

Among  the  saintes'  burials  louting;* 

And  he  anon,  withoute  tarrying. 

Did  his  message,  and  when  that  he  it  told. 

Urban  for  joy  his  handes  gan  uphold. 


*business 


*depart 


*lying  concealed  <9> 


The  teares  from  his  eyen  let  he  fall; 

"Almighty  Lord,  O  Jesus  Christ," 

Quoth  he,  "Sower  of  chaste  counsel,  herd*  of  us  all;  *shepherd 

The  fruit  of  thilke*  seed  of  chastity  *that 

That  thou  hast  sown  in  Cecile,  take  to  thee 

Lo,  like  a  busy  bee,  withoute  guile. 

Thee  serveth  aye  thine  owen  thrall*  Cicile,  *servant 


"For  thilke  spouse,  that  she  took  *but  now,* 
Full  like  a  fierce  lion,  she  sendeth  here. 
As  meek  as  e'er  was  any  lamb  to  owe." 
And  with  that  word  anon  there  gan  appear 


*lately* 


524 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


An  old  man,  clad  in  white  clothes  clear, 
That  had  a  book  with  letters  of  gold  in  hand. 
And  gan  before  Valerian  to  stand. 


Valerian,  as  dead,  fell  down  for  dread. 
When  he  him  saw;  and  he  up  hent*  him  tho,** 
And  on  his  book  right  thus  he  gan  to  read; 
"One  Lord,  one  faith,  one  God  withoute  mo'. 
One  Christendom,  one  Father  of  all  also, 
Aboven  all,  and  over  all  everywhere." 
These  wordes  all  with  gold  y- written  were. 


*took  **there 


When  this  was  read,  then  said  this  olde  man, 
"Believ'st  thou  this  or  no?  say  yea  or  nay." 
"I  believe  all  this,"  quoth  Valerian, 
"For  soother*  thing  than  this,  I  dare  well  say. 
Under  the  Heaven  no  wight  thinke  may." 
Then  vanish'd  the  old  man,  he  wist  not  where 
And  Pope  Urban  him  christened  right  there. 


"truer 


Valerian  went  home,  and  found  Cecilie 
Within  his  chamber  with  an  angel  stand; 
This  angel  had  of  roses  and  of  lily 
Corones*  two,  the  which  he  bare  in  hand. 
And  first  to  Cecile,  as  I  understand. 
He  gave  the  one,  and  after  gan  he  take 
The  other  to  Valerian  her  make.* 


*mate,  husband 


"With  body  clean,  and  with  unwemmed*  thought. 
Keep  aye  well  these  corones  two,"  quoth  he; 
"From  Paradise  to  you  I  have  them  brought. 
Nor  ever  more  shall  they  rotten  be. 
Nor  lose  their  sweet  savour,  truste  me. 
Nor  ever  wight  shall  see  them  with  his  eye. 


*unspotted,  blameless 


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But  he  be  chaste,  and  hate  villainy. 


525 


"And  thou.  Valerian,  for  thou  so  soon 

Assented  hast  to  good  counsel,  also 

Say  what  thee  list,*  and  thou  shalt  have  thy  boon.' 

"I  have  a  brother,"  quoth  Valerian  tho,* 

"That  in  this  world  I  love  no  man  so; 

I  pray  you  that  my  brother  may  have  grace 

To  know  the  truth,  as  I  do  in  this  place." 


*wish  **desire 
*then 


The  angel  said,  "God  liketh  thy  request. 
And  bothe,  with  the  palm  of  martyrdom. 
Ye  shalle  come  unto  this  blissful  rest." 
And,  with  that  word,  Tiburce  his  brother  came. 
And  when  that  he  the  savour  undernome* 
Which  that  the  roses  and  the  lilies  cast. 
Within  his  heart  he  gan  to  wonder  fast; 


*perceived 


And  said;  "I  wonder,  this  time  of  the  year. 
Whence  that  sweete  savour  cometh  so 
Of  rose  and  lilies,  that  I  smelle  here; 
For  though  I  had  them  in  mine  handes  two. 
The  savour  might  in  me  no  deeper  go; 
The  sweete  smell,  that  in  my  heart  I  fmd. 
Hath  changed  me  all  in  another  kind." 


Valerian  said,  "Two  crownes  here  have  we. 
Snow-white  and  rose-red,  that  shine  clear. 
Which  that  thine  eyen  have  no  might  to  see; 
And,  as  thou  smellest  them  through  my  prayere. 
So  shalt  thou  see  them,  leve*  brother  dear. 
If  it  so  be  thou  wilt  withoute  sloth 
Believe  aright,  and  know  the  very  troth.  " 


*beloved 


526 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Tiburce  answered,  "Say'st  thou  this  to  me 

In  soothness,  or  in  dreame  hear  I  this?" 

"In  dreames,"  quoth  Valorian,  "have  we  be 

Unto  this  time,  brother  mine,  y-wis 

But  now  *at  erst*  in  truth  our  dwelling  is."         *for  the  first  time* 

How  know'st  thou  this,"  quoth  Tiburce;  "in  what  wise?" 

Quoth  Valerian,  "That  shall  I  thee  devise*  *describe 

"The  angel  of  God  hath  me  the  truth  y-taught. 

Which  thou  shalt  see,  if  that  thou  wilt  reny*  *renounce 

The  idols,  and  be  clean,  and  elles  nought." 

[And  of  the  miracle  of  these  crownes  tway 

Saint  Ambrose  in  his  preface  list  to  say; 

Solemnely  this  noble  doctor  dear 

Commendeth  it,  and  saith  in  this  mannere 


"The  palm  of  martyrdom  for  to  receive. 

Saint  Cecilie,  full  filled  of  God's  gift. 

The  world  and  eke  her  chamber  gan  to  weive;* 

Witness  Tiburce's  and  Cecilie's  shrift,* 

To  which  God  of  his  bounty  woulde  shift 

Corones  two,  of  flowers  well  smelling. 

And  made  his  angel  them  the  crownes  bring. 


*forsake 
*confession 


"The  maid  hath  brought  these  men  to  bliss  above; 

The  world  hath  wist  what  it  is  worth,  certain. 

Devotion  of  chastity  to  love."]  <10> 

Then  showed  him  Cecilie  all  open  and  plain. 

That  idols  all  are  but  a  thing  in  vain. 

For  they  be  dumb,  and  thereto*  they  be  deave;** 

And  charged  him  his  idols  for  to  leave. 


*therefore  **deaf 


"Whoso  that  troweth*  not  this,  a  beast  he  is," 
Quoth  this  Tiburce,  "if  that  I  shall  not  lie." 


*believeth 


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And  she  gan  kiss  his  breast  when  she  heard  this. 

And  was  full  glad  he  could  the  truth  espy: 

"This  day  I  take  thee  for  mine  ally."*  *chosen  friend 

Saide  this  blissful  faire  maiden  dear; 

And  after  that  she  said  as  ye  may  hear. 

"Lo,  right  so  as  the  love  of  Christ,"  quoth  she, 
"Made  me  thy  brother's  wife,  right  in  that  wise 
Anon  for  mine  ally  here  take  I  thee. 
Since  that  thou  wilt  thine  idoles  despise. 
Go  with  thy  brother  now  and  thee  baptise. 
And  make  thee  clean,  so  that  thou  may'st  behold 
The  angel's  face,  of  which  thy  brother  told." 

Tiburce  answer 'd,  and  saide,  "Brother  dear. 

First  tell  me  whither  I  shall,  and  to  what  man?" 

"To  whom?"  quoth  he,  "come  forth  with  goode  cheer, 

I  will  thee  lead  unto  the  Pope  Urban." 

"To  Urban?  brother  mine  Valerian," 

Quoth  then  Tiburce;  "wilt  thou  me  thither  lead? 

Me  thinketh  that  it  were  a  wondrous  deed. 


527 


"Meanest  thou  not  that  Urban,"  quoth  he  tho,*  *then 

"That  is  so  often  damned  to  be  dead. 

And  wons*  in  halkes**  always  to  and  fro,  *dwells  **corners 

And  dare  not  ones  putte  forth  his  head? 

Men  should  him  brennen*  in  a  fire  so  red,  *burn 

If  he  were  found,  or  if  men  might  him  spy: 

And  us  also,  to  bear  him  company. 

"And  while  we  seeke  that  Divinity 

That  is  y-hid  in  heaven  privily, 

Algate*  burnt  in  this  world  should  we  be."  *nevertheless 

To  whom  Cecilie  answer'd  boldely; 


528 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"Men  mighte  dreade  well  and  skilfully* 
This  life  to  lose,  mine  owen  deare  brother, 
If  this  were  living  only,  and  none  other. 


*reasonably 


*reasonable 
*Holy  Spirit 


"But  there  is  better  life  in  other  place. 

That  never  shall  be  loste,  dread  thee  nought; 

Which  Godde's  Son  us  tolde  through  his  grace 

That  Father's  Son  which  alle  thinges  wrought; 

And  all  that  wrought  is  with  a  skilful*  thought. 

The  Ghost,*  that  from  the  Father  gan  proceed. 

Hath  souled*  them,  withouten  any  drede.**      *endowed  them  with  a  soul 

**doubt 
Byword  and  by  miracle,  high  God's  Son, 
When  he  was  in  this  world,  declared  here. 
That  there  is  other  life  where  men  may  won."* 
To  whom  answer'd  Tiburce,  "O  sister  dear, 
Saidest  thou  not  right  now  in  this  mannere. 
There  was  but  one  God,  Lord  in  soothfastness,* 
And  now  of  three  how  may'st  thou  bear  witness?" 


*dwell 


*truth 


"That  shall  I  tell,"  quoth  she,  "ere  that  I  go. 
Right  as  a  man  hath  sapiences*  three. 
Memory,  engine,*  and  intellect  also. 
So  in  one  being  of  divinity 
Three  persones  there  maye  right  well  be." 
Then  gan  she  him  full  busily  to  preach 
Of  Christe's  coming,  and  his  paines  teach. 


*mental  faculties 
*wit  <11> 


And  many  pointes  of  his  passion; 

How  Godde's  Son  in  this  world  was  withhold* 

To  do  mankinde  plein*  remission. 

That  was  y-bound  in  sin  and  cares  cold.* 

All  this  thing  she  unto  Tiburce  told. 

And  after  that  Tiburce,  in  good  intent. 


*employed 
*full 
*wretched  <12> 


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With  Valerian  to  Pope  Urban  he  went. 


529 


That  thanked  God,  and  with  glad  heart  and  light 
He  christen'd  him,  and  made  him  in  that  place 
Perfect  in  his  learning,  and  Godde's  knight. 
And  after  this  Tiburce  got  such  grace. 
That  every  day  he  saw  in  time  and  space 
Th'  angel  of  God,  and  every  manner  boon* 
That  be  God  asked,  it  was  sped*  full  anon.  ^ 


*request,  favour 
granted,  successful 


It  were  full  hard  by  order  for  to  sayn 

How  many  wonders  Jesus  for  them  wrought. 

But  at  the  last,  to  telle  short  and  plain. 

The  sergeants  of  the  town  of  Rome  them  sought. 

And  them  before  Almach  the  Prefect  brought. 

Which  them  apposed,*  and  knew  all  their  intent. 

And  to  th'image  of  Jupiter  them  sent. 


*questioned 


And  said,  "Whoso  will  not  do  sacrifice. 

Swap*  off  his  head,  this  is  my  sentence  here."  *strike 

Anon  these  martyrs,  *that  I  you  devise,*  *of  whom  I  tell  you* 

One  Maximus,  that  was  an  officere 

Of  the  prefect's,  and  his  corniculere  <13> 

Them  hent,*  and  when  he  forth  the  saintes  lad,**  *seized  **led 

Himself  he  wept  for  pity  that  he  had. 


When  Maximus  had  heard  the  saintes  lore,* 
He  got  him  of  the  tormentores*  leave. 
And  led  them  to  his  house  withoute  more; 
And  with  their  preaching,  ere  that  it  were  eve. 
They  gonnen*  from  the  tormentors  to  reave,** 
And  from  Maxim',  and  from  his  folk  each  one. 
The  false  faith,  to  trow*  in  God  alone. 


*doctrine,  teaching 
*torturers 


*began  **wrest,  root  out 


*believe 


530 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


Cecilia  came,  when  it  was  waxen  night, 

With  priestes,  that  them  christen'd  *all  in  fere;*         *in  a  company* 

And  afterward,  when  day  was  waxen  light, 

Cecile  them  said  with  a  full  steadfast  cheer,*  *mien 

"Now,  Christe's  owen  knightes  lefe*  and  dear,  *beloved 

Cast  all  away  the  workes  of  darkness. 

And  arme  you  in  armour  of  brightness. 

Ye  have  forsooth  y-done  a  great  battaile. 

Your  course  is  done,  your  faith  have  ye  conserved;  <  14> 

O  to  the  crown  of  life  that  may  not  fail; 

The  rightful  Judge,  which  that  ye  have  served 

Shall  give  it  you,  as  ye  have  it  deserved." 

And  when  this  thing  was  said,  as  I  devise,*  relate 

Men  led  them  forth  to  do  the  sacrifice. 


But  when  they  were  unto  the  place  brought 
To  telle  shortly  the  conclusion. 
They  would  incense  nor  sacrifice  right  nought 
But  on  their  knees  they  sette  them  adown. 
With  humble  heart  and  sad*  devotion, 
And  loste  both  their  heades  in  the  place; 
Their  soules  wente  to  the  King  of  grace. 


*steadfast 


This  Maximus,  that  saw  this  thing  betide. 
With  piteous  teares  told  it  anon  right. 
That  he  their  soules  saw  to  heaven  glide 
With  angels,  full  of  clearness  and  of  light 
Andt  with  his  word  converted  many  a  wight. 
For  which  Almachius  *did  him  to-beat* 
With  whip  of  lead,  till  he  his  life  gan  lete.* 

Cecile  him  took,  and  buried  him  anon 
ByTiburce  and  Valerian  softely. 


*seenote  <15>* 
*quit 


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Within  their  burying-place,  under  the  stone. 

And  after  this  Almachius  hastily 

Bade  his  ministers  fetchen  openly 

Cecile,  so  that  she  might  in  his  presence 

Do  sacrifice,  and  Jupiter  incense.*  *burn  incense  to 


531 


*teaching 

*opinion 

*believe  **die 

*firstofall 


But  they,  converted  at  her  wise  lore,* 

Wepte  full  sore,  and  gave  full  credence 

Unto  her  word,  and  cried  more  and  more; 

"Christ,  Godde's  Son,  withoute  difference. 

Is  very  God,  this  is  all  our  sentence,* 

That  hath  so  good  a  servant  him  to  serve 

Thus  with  one  voice  we  trowe,*  though  we  sterve.^ 

Almachius,  that  heard  of  this  doing. 
Bade  fetch  Cecilie,  that  he  might  her  see; 
And  alderfirst,*  lo,  this  was  his  asking; 
"What  manner  woman  arte  thou?"  quoth  he, 
"I  am  a  gentle  woman  born,"  quoth  she. 
"I  aske  thee,"  quoth  he,"though  it  thee  grieve. 
Of  thy  religion  and  of  thy  believe." 


"Ye  have  begun  your  question  foolishly," 

Quoth  she,  "that  wouldest  two  answers  conclude 

In  one  demand?  ye  aske  lewedly."*  *ignorantly 

Almach  answer 'd  to  that  similitude, 

"Of  whence  comes  thine  answering  so  rude?" 

"Of  whence?"  quoth  she,  when  that  she  was  freined,*  *asked 

"Of  conscience,  and  of  good  faith  unfeigned." 

Almachius  saide;  "Takest  thou  no  heed 
Of  my  power?"  and  she  him  answer 'd  this; 
"Your  might,"  quoth  she,  "full  little  is  to  dread; 
For  every  mortal  manne's  power  is 


532 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


But  like  a  bladder  full  of  wind,  y-wis;* 
For  with  a  needle's  point,  when  it  is  blow'. 
May  all  the  boast  of  it  be  laid  full  low" 


*certainly 


"Full  wrongfully  begunnest  thou,"  quoth  he, 
"And  yet  in  wrong  is  thy  perseverance. 
Know'st  thou  not  how  our  mighty  princes  free 
Have  thus  commanded  and  made  ordinance. 
That  every  Christian  wight  shall  have  penance,* 
But  if  that  he  his  Christendom  withsay,* 
And  go  all  quit,  if  he  will  it  renay?"* 


*punishment 
*deny 
*renounce 


"Your  princes  erren,  as  your  nobley*  doth," 

Quoth  then  Cecile,  "and  with  a  *wood  sentence* 

Ye  make  us  guilty,  and  it  is  not  sooth:* 

For  ye  that  knowe  well  our  innocence. 

Forasmuch  as  we  do  aye  reverence 

To  Christ,  and  for  we  bear  a  Christian  name. 

Ye  put  on  us  a  crime  and  eke  a  blame. 


*nobility 
*mad  judgment* 
*true 


"But  we  that  knowe  thilke  name  so 
For  virtuous,  we  may  it  not  withsay." 
Almach  answered,  "Choose  one  of  these  two. 
Do  sacrifice,  or  Christendom  renay. 
That  thou  may'st  now  escape  by  that  way." 
At  which  the  holy  blissful  faire  maid 
Gan  for  to  laugh,  and  to  the  judge  said; 


"O  judge,  *confused  in  thy  nicety* 
Wouldest  thou  that  I  reny  innocence? 
To  make  me  a  wicked  wight,"  quoth  she, 
"Lo,  he  dissimuleth*  here  in  audience; 
He  stareth  and  woodeth*  in  his  advertence."** 
To  whom  Almachius  said,  "Unsely*  wretch. 


*confounded  in  thy  folly* 


*dissembles 
*grows  furious  **thought 
*unhappy 


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Knowest  thou  not  how  far  my  might  may  stretch? 


"Have  not  our  mighty  princes  to  me  given 

Yea  bothe  power  and  eke  authority 

To  make  folk  to  dien  or  to  liven? 

Why  speakest  thou  so  proudly  then  to  me?" 

"I  speake  not  but  steadfastly,"  quoth  she. 

Not  proudly,  for  I  say,  as  for  my  side. 

We  hate  deadly*  thilke  vice  of  pride. 


533 


"And,  if  thou  dreade  not  a  sooth*  to  hear. 
Then  will  I  shew  all  openly  by  right. 
That  thou  hast  made  a  full  great  leasing*  here. 
Thou  say'st  thy  princes  have  thee  given  might 
Both  for  to  slay  and  for  to  quick*  a  wight,  — 
Thou  that  may'st  not  but  only  life  bereave; 
Thou  hast  none  other  power  nor  no  leave. 

"But  thou  may'st  say,  thy  princes  have  thee  maked 

Minister  of  death;  for  if  thou  speak  of  mo'. 

Thou  liest;  for  thy  power  is  full  naked." 

"Do  away  thy  boldness,"  said  Almachius  tho,* 

"And  sacrifice  to  our  gods,  ere  thou  go. 

I  recke  not  what  wrong  that  thou  me  proffer. 

For  I  can  suffer  it  as  a  philosopher. 

"But  those  wronges  may  I  not  endure. 

That  thou  speak'st  of  our  goddes  here,"  quoth  he. 

Cecile  answer 'd,  "O  nice*  creature. 

Thou  saidest  no  word,  since  thou  spake  to  me. 

That  I  knew  not  therewith  thy  nicety* 

And  that  thou  wert  in  *every  manner  wise* 

A  lewed*  officer,  a  vain  justice. 


*mortally 
*truth 
*falsehood 
*give  life  to 


*then 


*foolish 

*folly 
*  every  sort  of  way* 
■"ignorant 


534 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


"There  lacketh  nothing  to  thine  outward  eyen 
That  thou  art  blind;  for  thing  that  we  see  all 
That  it  is  stone,  that  men  may  well  espyen, 
That  ilke*  stone  a  god  thou  wilt  it  call. 
I  rede*  thee  let  thine  hand  upon  it  fall, 
And  taste*  it  well,  and  stone  thou  shalt  it  fmd; 
Since  that  thou  see'st  not  with  thine  eyen  blind. 


Very,  selfsame 
*advise 
*examine,  test 


"It  is  a  shame  that  the  people  shall 
So  scorne  thee,  and  laugh  at  thy  folly; 
For  commonly  men  *wot  it  well  over  all,* 
That  mighty  God  is  in  his  heaven  high; 
And  these  images,  well  may'st  thou  espy. 
To  thee  nor  to  themselves  may  not  profite. 
For  in  effect  they  be  not  worth  a  mite." 


*know  it  everywhere* 


These  wordes  and  such  others  saide  she. 

And  he  wax'd  wroth,  and  bade  men  should  her  lead 

Home  to  her  house;  "And  in  her  house,"  quoth  he, 

"Burn  her  right  in  a  bath,  with  flames  red." 

And  as  he  bade,  right  so  was  done  the  deed; 

For  in  a  bath  they  gan  her  faste  shetten,*  *shut,  confme 

And  night  and  day  great  fire  they  under  betten.*       *kindled,  applied 


The  longe  night,  and  eke  a  day  also. 
For  all  the  fire,  and  eke  the  bathe's  heat. 
She  sat  all  cold,  and  felt  of  it  no  woe. 
It  made  her  not  one  droppe  for  to  sweat; 
But  in  that  bath  her  life  she  must  lete.* 
For  he,  Almachius,  with  full  wick'  intent. 
To  slay  her  in  the  bath  his  sonde*  sent. 


*leave 
*message,  order 


Three  strokes  in  the  neck  he  smote  her  tho,* 
The  tormentor,*  but  for  no  manner  chance 


*there 
*executioner 


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He  might  not  smite  her  faire  neck  in  two: 
And,  for  there  was  that  time  an  ordinance 
That  no  man  should  do  man  such  penance,* 
The  fourthe  stroke  to  smite,  soft  or  sore. 
This  tormentor  he  durste  do  no  more; 


535 


seventy,  torture 


But  half  dead,  with  her  necke  carven*  there  *gashed 

He  let  her  lie,  and  on  his  way  is  went. 

The  Christian  folk,  which  that  about  her  were. 

With  sheetes  have  the  blood  full  fair  y-hent;  *taken 

Three  dayes  lived  she  in  this  torment. 

And  never  ceased  them  the  faith  to  teach. 

That  she  had  foster'd  them,  she  gan  to  preach. 


up 


And  them  she  gave  her  mebles*  and  her  thing. 

And  to  the  Pope  Urban  betook*  them  tho;** 

And  said,  "I  aske  this  of  heaven's  king. 

To  have  respite  three  dayes  and  no  mo'. 

To  recommend  to  you,  ere  that  I  go. 

These  soules,  lo;  and  that  *I  might  do  wirch* 

Here  of  mine  house  perpetually  a  church." 


*goods 
*commended  **then 


*cause  to  be  made* 


Saint  Urban,  with  his  deacons,  privily 
The  body  fetch'd,  and  buried  it  by  night 
Among  his  other  saintes  honestly; 
Her  house  the  church  of  Saint  Cecilie  hight;* 
Saint  Urban  hallow'd  it,  as  he  well  might; 
In  which  unto  this  day,  in  noble  wise. 
Men  do  to  Christ  and  to  his  saint  service. 


*is  called 


536 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


)a/fimi' 


^eOWKMl^ 


The  Prologue. 


*nag  **dapple-gray 
*spurred 
*hardly**go 


WHEN  ended  was  the  life  of  Saint  Cecile, 

Ere  we  had  ridden  fully  five  mile,  <2> 

At  Boughton-under-Blee  us  gan  o'ertake 

A  man,  that  clothed  was  in  clothes  black. 

And  underneath  he  wore  a  white  surplice. 

His  hackenay,*  which  was  all  pomely-gris,** 

So  sweated,  that  it  wonder  was  to  see; 

It  seem'd  as  he  had  pricked*  miles  three. 

The  horse  eke  that  his  yeoman  rode  upon 

So  sweated,  that  unnethes*  might  he  gon.** 

About  the  peytrel  <3>  stood  the  foam  full  high; 

He  was  of  foam,  as  *flecked  as  a  pie.*  *spotted  like  a  magpie* 

A  maile  twyfold  <4>  on  his  crupper  lay; 

It  seemed  that  he  carried  little  array; 

All  light  for  summer  rode  this  worthy  man. 

And  in  my  heart  to  wonder  I  began 

What  that  he  was,  till  that  I  understood 

How  that  his  cloak  was  sewed  to  his  hood; 

For  which,  when  I  had  long  advised*  me,  *considered 

I  deemed  him  some  Canon  for  to  be. 

His  hat  hung  at  his  back  down  by  a  lace,*  *cord 

For  he  had  ridden  more  than  trot  or  pace; 

He  hadde  pricked  like  as  he  were  wood.*  *mad 


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537 


A  clote-leaP  he  had  laid  under  his  hood. 

For  sweat,  and  for  to  keep  his  head  from  heat. 

But  it  was  joye  for  to  see  him  sweat; 

His  forehead  dropped  as  a  stillatory* 

Were  full  of  plantain  or  of  paritory* 

And  when  that  he  was  come,  he  gan  to  cry, 

"God  save,"  quoth  he,  "this  jolly  company. 

Fast  have  I  pricked,"  quoth  he,  "for  your  sake. 

Because  that  I  would  you  overtake. 

To  riden  in  this  merry  company." 

His  Yeoman  was  eke  full  of  courtesy. 

And  saide,  "Sirs,  now  in  the  morning  tide 

Out  of  your  hostelry  I  saw  you  ride. 

And  warned  here  my  lord  and  sovereign. 

Which  that  to  ride  with  you  is  full  fain. 

For  his  disport;  he  loveth  dalliance." 

"Friend,  for  thy  warning  God  give  thee  good  chance. 

Said  oure  Host;  "certain  it  woulde  seem 

Thy  lord  were  wise,  and  so  I  may  well  deem; 

He  is  full  jocund  also,  dare  I  lay; 

Can  he  aught  tell  a  merry  tale  or  tway. 

With  which  he  gladden  may  this  company?" 

"Who,  Sir?  my  lord?  Yea,  Sir,  withoute  lie. 

He  can*  of  mirth  and  eke  of  jollity 

*Not  but*  enough;  also.  Sir,  truste  me. 

An*  ye  him  knew  all  so  well  as  do  I, 

Ye  would  wonder  how  well  and  craftily 

He  coulde  work,  and  that  in  sundry  wise. 

He  hath  take  on  him  many  a  great  emprise,* 

Which  were  full  hard  for  any  that  is  here 

To  bring  about,  but*  they  of  him  it  lear.** 

As  homely  as  he  rides  amonges  you. 

If  ye  him  knew,  it  would  be  for  your  prow:* 

Ye  woulde  not  forego  his  acquaintance 


burdock-leaf 


*still 
wallflower 


*fortune 


*knows 

not  less  than* 

*if 


*task,  undertaking 


'unless  **learn 


*advantage 


538 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


For  muche  good,  I  dare  lay  in  balance 

All  that  I  have  in  my  possession. 

He  is  a  man  of  high  discretion. 

I  warn  you  well,  he  is  a  passing*  man."       *surpassing,  extraordinary 

Well,"  quoth  our  Host,  "I  pray  thee  tell  me  than. 

Is  he  a  clerk,*  or  no?  Tell  what  he  is."  *scholar,  priest 

"Nay,  he  is  greater  than  a  clerk,  y-wis,"*  *certainly 

Saide  this  Yeoman;  "and,  in  wordes  few. 

Host,  of  his  craft  somewhat  I  will  you  shew, 

I  say,  my  lord  can*  such  a  subtlety  *knows 

(But  all  his  craft  ye  may  not  weet*  of  me,  *learn 

And  somewhat  help  I  yet  to  his  working). 

That  all  the  ground  on  which  we  be  riding 

Till  that  we  come  to  Canterbury  town. 

He  could  all  cleane  turnen  up  so  down. 

And  pave  it  all  of  silver  and  of  gold." 

And  when  this  Yeoman  had  this  tale  told 

Unto  our  Host,  he  said;  "Ben'dicite! 

This  thing  is  wonder  marvellous  to  me. 

Since  that  thy  lord  is  of  so  high  prudence. 

Because  of  which  men  should  him  reverence. 

That  of  his  worship*  recketh  he  so  lite;**  *honour  **little 

His  *overest  slop*  it  is  not  worth  a  mite  *upper  garment* 

As  in  effect  to  him,  so  may  I  go; 

It  is  all  baudy*  and  to-tore  also.  *slovenly 

Why  is  thy  lord  so  sluttish,  I  thee  pray. 

And  is  of  power  better  clothes  to  bey,*  *buy 

If  that  his  deed  accordeth  with  thy  speech? 

Telle  me  that,  and  that  I  thee  beseech." 


"Why?"  quoth  this  Yeoman,  "whereto  ask  ye  me? 

God  help  me  so,  for  he  shall  never  the* 

(But  I  will  not  avowe*  that  I  say. 

And  therefore  keep  it  secret,  I  you  pray); 


*thrive 
*admit 


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539 


He  is  too  wise,  in  faith,  as  I  believe. 

Thing  that  is  overdone,  it  will  not  preve*  *stand  the  test 

Aright,  as  clerkes  say;  it  is  a  vice; 

Wherefore  in  that  I  hold  him  *lewd  and  nice."*    *ignorant  and  foolish* 

For  when  a  man  hath  over  great  a  wit. 

Full  oft  him  happens  to  misusen  it; 

So  doth  my  lord,  and  that  me  grieveth  sore. 

God  it  amend;  I  can  say  now  no  more." 


corners 

*nature 


"Thereof  *no  force,*  good  Yeoman,  "quoth  our  Host;  *no  matter* 

"Since  of  the  conning*  of  thy  lord,  thou  know'st,  *knowledge 

Tell  how  he  doth,  I  pray  thee  heartily. 

Since  that  be  is  so  crafty  and  so  sly*  *wise 

Where  dwelle  ye,  if  it  to  telle  be?" 

"In  the  suburbes  of  a  town,"  quoth  he, 

"Lurking  in  hemes*  and  in  lanes  blind. 

Where  as  these  robbers  and  these  thieves  by  kind* 

Holde  their  privy  fearful  residence. 

As  they  that  dare  not  show  their  presence. 

So  fare  we,  if  I  shall  say  the  soothe."*  *truth 

"Yet,"  quoth  our  Hoste,  "let  me  talke  to  thee; 

Why  art  thou  so  discolour'd  of  thy  face?" 

"Peter!"  quoth  he,  "God  give  it  harde  grace, 

I  am  so  us'd  the  bote  fire  to  blow. 

That  it  hath  changed  my  colour,  I  trow; 

I  am  not  wont  in  no  mirror  to  pry. 

But  swinke*  sore,  and  learn  to  multiply.  <5>  *labour 

We  blunder*  ever,  and  poren**  in  the  fire,  *toil  **peer 

And,  for  all  that,  we  fail  of  our  desire 

For  ever  we  lack  our  conclusion 

To  muche  folk  we  do  illusion. 

And  borrow  gold,  be  it  a  pound  or  two. 

Or  ten  or  twelve,  or  many  summes  mo'. 

And  make  them  weenen,*  at  the  leaste  way,  *fancy 


540 


Geoffrery  Chaucer.  The  Canterbury  Tales. 


That  of  a  pounde  we  can  make  tway. 

Yet  is  it  false;  and  aye  we  have  good  hope 

It  for  to  do,  and  after  it  we  grope:*  *search,  strive 

But  that  science  is  so  far  us  beforn, 

That  we  may  not,  although  we  had  it  sworn. 

It  overtake,  it  slides  away  so  fast; 

It  will  us  make  beggars  at  the  last." 

While  this  Yeoman  was  thus  in  his  talking. 

This  Canon  drew  him  near,  and  heard  all  thing 

Which  this  Yeoman  spake,  for  suspicion 

Of  menne's  speech  ever  had  this  Canon: 

For  Cato  saith,  that  he  that  guilty  is,  <6> 

Deemeth  all  things  be  spoken  of  him  y-wis;*  *surely 

Because  of  that  he  gan  so  nigh  to  draw 

To  his  Yeoman,  that  he  heard  all  his  saw; 

And  thus  he  said  unto  his  Yeoman  tho*  *then 

"Hold  thou  thy  peace,and  speak  no  wordes  mo': 

For  if  thou  do,  thou  shalt  *it  dear  abie.*  *pay  dearly  for  it* 

Thou  slanderest  me  here  in  this  company 

And  eke  discoverest  that  thou  shouldest  hide." 

"Yea,"  quoth  our  Host,  "tell  on,  whatso  betide; 

Of  all  his  threatening  reck  not  a  mite." 

"In  faith,"  quoth  he,  "no  more  do  I  but  lite."*  *little 

And  when  this  Canon  saw  it  would  not  be 

But  his  Yeoman  would  tell  his  privity,*  *secrets 

He  fled  away  for  very  sorrow  and  shame. 


"Ah!"  quoth  the  Yeoman,  "here  shall  rise  a  game;* 

All  that  I  can  anon  I  will  you  tell. 

Since  he  is  gone;  the  foule  fiend  him  quell!* 

For  ne'er  hereafter  will  I  with  him  meet. 

For  penny  nor  for  pound,  I  you  behete.* 

He  that  me  broughte  first  unto  that  game. 

Ere  that  he  die,  sorrow  have  he  and  shame. 


*some  diversion 


*destroy 


promise 


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541 


For  it  is  earnest*  to  me,  by  my  faith; 

That  feel  I  well,  what  so  any  man  saith; 

And  yet  for  all  my  smart,  and  all  my  grief. 

For  all  my  sorrow